The judge in Michael Jackson’s child molestation trial heard arguments today on what the defence should be allowed to ask Jackson’s accuser if the boy returns to the stand.
The defence asked to question the boy again because of Judge Rodney Melville’s ruling yesterday allowing prosecutors to introduce a videotape of a July 2003 interview with authorities in which he first told them about the alleged molestation.
The judge said he was only admitting the tape so that jurors could see Gavin Arvizo’s demeanour, not so they could determine whether he was telling the truth. Melville said that would limit the questions the defence could ask to those about the boys’ spontaneity and behaviour.
Defence lawyer Robert Sanger said the defence wants to ask the boy about the timeline in which he made the allegations to show that his declarations to law enforcement officers were not spontaneous.
Sanger said that Stan Katz, the psychologist who first reported the allegations to authorities, learned of them from the boy’s sister, who had heard them from the boy. Sanger said Katz then interviewed the boy and heard them himself.
But Sanger said that on the tape the boy says he has not told his brother or his sister about the alleged molestation.
The judge said he would be inclined to allow such questioning because “it’s evidence that a jury could infer shows lack of spontaneity.”
Sanger also said allowing the tape could significantly extend the defence’s response to the prosecution rebuttal because they would need to call several witnesses including the boy, his mother, Katz and Larry Feldman, the attorney who referred the family to Katz.
Prosecutors had recently suggested they were going to finish their rebuttal case this week, but Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen told the judge they now expect to conclude next Tuesday.
Although Melville sided with the prosecution on showing the videotape, yesterday he rejected another prosecution request: to show jurors pictures of Jackson’s genitals that were taken during a previous molestation investigation.
Jackson, 46, is charged with molesting a 13-year-old boy in February or March 2003, giving him wine and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut a documentary in which the boy appeared with Jackson as the entertainer said he let children into his bed but it was non-sexual. Jackson denies all charges.
Prosecutors contend the videotape will show that the accuser’s story has been consistent.
In arguing against its use, Sanger said it contains “prejudicial material” such as officers telling the boy: “You’re really brave, we want you to do this.”
On the issue of the genitalia pictures, Sanger argued that to show the photos would be “very shocking” and prejudicial to the jury.
The photographs were taken in 1993 when prosecutors were trying to gather evidence against Jackson in another molestation case.
After taking the photos, authorities had the boy involved in the case drew a picture of what he thought the genitalia looked like. Prosecutors claimed the picture contained a unique blemish.
The boy in the investigation and his family eventually received a multimillion-dollar settlement from Jackson and no criminal charges were filed.
Arguing for use of the graphic pictures, Zonen said the prosecution wanted to show jurors a child’s description “of a unique feature of (Jackson’s) anatomy.”
Zonen said it would show that Jackson’s relationships with boys were “not casual.”
The judge refused to allow the pictures, saying that the prejudicial effect of the photos would far outweigh any value.