The accuser in Michael Jackson’s child molestation trial returned to the courtroom on videotape today as prosecutors showed jurors a 2003 interview in which the boy first told authorities of his allegations against the singer.
Prosecutors at the court in Santa Maria, California played the tape after Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville instructed jurors “only to observe the demeanour, manner and attitude of the witness” and said Gavin Arvizo’s “statements are not to be considered for the truth of the matter stated”.
The judge also told the jury the defence would later be allowed to question Gavin Arvizo on the stand but only on the points he had outlined.
The interview was conducted in the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department’s Sexual Abuse Assault Response Team cottage in Santa Barbara on July 6, 2003.
The tape showed Gavin, in denim shorts and a blue shirt, slumped in a chair. He occasionally smiled, scratched his arm and fumbled with a button on his shirt.
Investigators made small-talk with him as they tried to build rapport. Asked about his grades, Gavin said, “I guess average.” He said he got mostly Cs and Ds because of “playing around too much”.
At one point, Sgt Steve Robel told him no one would learn about the interview. The detectives also assured him they were experienced and had done such interviews before.
“Not necessarily with Michael Jackson but with other people, other kids,” Robel said.
Gavin, now 15, testified at the start of the trial. The prosecution asked to introduce the tape during its rebuttal case, which began after the defence rested earlier this week.
After lengthy arguments, Judge Melville admitted the tape for limited purposes.
“My intent in allowing that was not for the impeachment statements but for the purpose of allowing the jury to examine his demeanour and the manner in which he made the disclosures,” Judge Melville told lawyers during arguments while the jury was not present.
District Attorney Tom Sneddon said he wanted to challenge defence allegations that Gavin’s story of molestation was scripted by his mother.
Defence lawyer Robert Sanger objected to playing the tape at all, and said it could lengthen the defence rebuttal case. He added, “I don’t think by the time the dust settles that the jury will be any further ahead.”
The judge said he would not give free rein to either side to continue calling witnesses.
“I’m not opening up this trial again,” Judge Melville said. ”We’re in rebuttal. The case is over.”
Prosecutors have already called 15 witnesses in rebuttal, and told the court today they will conclude their case on Tuesday.
In response to the tape, the defence said it would recall Gavin Arvizo and may also recall his mother Janet, the psychologist who first reported the allegations against Jackson to authorities and a lawyer who sent the Arvizo family to a psychologist.
Jackson, 46, is charged with molesting the then-13-year-old Gavin Arvizo in February or March 2003, giving him wine and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut a documentary by Martin Bashir in which the boy appeared with Jackson as the entertainer said he let children into his bed but it was non-sexual.