Prosecutor: Jackson case one of 'exploitation and abuse'

Michael Jackson committed “exploitation and sexual abuse”, and his only defence has been to attack the credibility of his accuser’s family, a prosecutor said today as closing arguments began.

Michael Jackson committed “exploitation and sexual abuse”, and his only defence has been to attack the credibility of his accuser’s family, a prosecutor said today as closing arguments began.

“This case is about the exploitation and sexual abuse of a 13-year-old cancer survivor by an international celebrity,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen said.

He said the defence case was “entirely limited” to attacks on the credibility of the boy’s mother.

Zonen told jurors at the outset that his argument would take a few hours. Defence lawyers were then expected to begin their closing. The jury has been told it will get the case tomorrow.

As Jackson arrived at court a short time earlier he was met by a contingent of fans that has been growing as the case nears its end. Jackson, in a dark coat and plaid vest, acknowledged them with a wave.

Yesterday, Jackson had sat silently and unmoving in court as the jury received instructions for their deliberations.

“It’s a very difficult situation to sit in there and know your life is in the balance,” Jackson spokeswoman Raymone Bain said afterward.

“He has strong faith in God and in the judicial system,” Bain said of Jackson. “He knows his fate is in the hands of 12 jurors.”

The 46-year-old singer is charged with molesting 13-year-old cancer survivor Gavin Arvizo in February or March 2003. He is accused of plying him with wine and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut damaging aspects of the documentary Living With Michael Jackson, in which Jackson appeared holding hands with the boy as he talked of allowing children into his bed for what he said were innocent sleepovers.

Jackson denies all charges.

Bain said Jackson’s emotions have varied during his 14-week trial.

“He has had anger. He’s been happy about some of the information that has come out in court,” she said.

Earlier yesterday, Jackson looked straight ahead as Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville, sitting in the witness box to be closer to the jury, read a long list of instructions hammered out during more than a day of discussions with prosecuting and defence lawyers.

Following up on an earlier decision regarding the alcohol allegations, the judge told the jurors they may consider a “lesser charge” of “furnishing alcohol to a minor”. The instruction means the jury would not have to relate the alcohol to the purpose of molestation.

Melville also told the jury how to use prosecution testimony that alleged Jackson has a history of improper behaviour with boys.

The judge said that if jurors determine Jackson has such a history, “you may, but are not required to, infer that the defendant had a predisposition” to commit the crimes alleged in the current case. But he told the jurors “that is not sufficient in itself to prove he committed the crimes charged.”

The judge paused at one point to determine if the jurors were paying attention.

“You know I read to my wife at night so she’ll go to sleep. Am I having that effect here?” he said.

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