Jurors in Michael Jackson’s child molestation trial will be allowed to hear evidence that the accuser's mother had made claims of improper touching against department store security guards, a judge ruled today.
Lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr made the allegations during motions in Santa Maria, California, on whether evidence could be admitted about the family’s lawsuit against J C Penney.
The family claimed in a lawsuit that they were beaten by guards and held against their will, and that the mother was groped, after Jackson’s young accuser left the store with clothes that had not been paid for.
Superior Court Judge Rodney S Melville said he would allow testimony about the case, especially as it pertained to the mother’s credibility. But he said the defence would not be allowed to refer to the boy as a shoplifter.
Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old former cancer patient at his Neverland ranch, plying him with alcohol, and conspiring to hold him and his family captive.
Mesereau said that after the mother received a $150,000 settlement from J C Penney and Tower Records, another defendant in the case, she immediately accused her husband of abusing her and filed for divorce.
The woman then accused her ex-husband of inappropriately touching her daughter, Mesereau said.
The lawyer also said the woman testified in the J C Penney case that her husband had never hit her, but alleged in her divorce that he had beaten his family for years. That was perjury, Mesereau said.
Mesereau also said the mother had her son ask celebrities for money and spent some of the funds on cosmetic surgery.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen argued that the issue was how the mother acquired the money, not what she spent it on, and that the issue was largely irrelevant.
“The question is whether a man who admits to sleeping with children was sleeping with this child, and what he did with this child. That’s what this case is about,” Zonen said.
Opening statements in the case are due to begin on Monday.
Jury selection for the trial was completed yesterday when four men and four women were sworn in as alternates who would step in if there was a problem with any of the 12 regular jurors chosen earlier in the week.
The jury is mostly white and Hispanic; the alternate panel includes one black man.
Jury selection had been expected to last several weeks but was completed on the sixth court day.
There were two week-long breaks in the process because of the death of one lawyer’s sister and Jackson’s hospitalisation with flu-like symptoms.
Prosecutors also said today that they would show the documentary Living with Michael Jackson, in which the singer is shown holding hands with his accuser and saying he allowed children to sleep in his bed, but not for any sexual purpose.
Both sides also agreed to meet tomorrow for a joint interview with a former lawyer who represented the alleged victim’s mother. What the lawyer might talk about was not disclosed.