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Abbreviated deliberations for Jackson jury

Jurors debated for only 2 1/2 hours Thursday to accommodate graduation commitments.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Jurors in the Michael Jackson child molestation case briefly resumed deliberations Thursday, the day after the pop star made another trip to the hospital for follow-up treatment to his back problems.

Jurors met for only two and a half hours Thursday — their fifth day of deliberations. They began just before 8:30 a.m. PT and finished at 10:55 a.m.

No reason for the short day was given, but the judge noted before the start of deliberations that he understood some jurors had obligations to attend graduation ceremonies for family members.

Jackson had gone to the emergency room Sunday because of a back problem exacerbated by stress, spokeswoman Raymone Bain said. Wednesday’s visit was a scheduled follow-up to that visit, she said in a statement.

“Mr. Jackson is now at home with his family,” she said.

About the same time Bain released the statement late Wednesday, one of Jackson’s black sport utility vehicles and one of his bodyguards pulled up at the Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital. More than an hour later, the SUV pulled around the back of the hospital and sped off a few minutes later with its headlights off and curtains drawn.

The departure was similar to one after Jackson’s visit to the emergency room Sunday, when his bodyguards put up scaffolding around his SUV to block reporters’ views before the vehicle sped off.

Jackson has complained of a back problem since early March, when he made a morning emergency room visit and raced back to court in his pajama bottoms when the judge threatened to have him arrested.

Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old cancer survivor in 2003, plying him with wine and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut a damaging TV documentary about the entertainer.

On Wednesday, a controversy over the gag order in the case arose when the singer’s attorney issued a statement saying he had not authorized anyone to hold news conferences on the pop star’s behalf.

The court-approved statement from attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. appeared aimed at assuring the court that his defense team had not violated the judge’s gag order.

Mesereau did not name anyone, but his statement came shortly after Bain held a news conference indicating her comments had been approved by Mesereau. Others, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, also have spoken on the pop star’s behalf recently.

Bain insisted in the wake of Mesereau’s statement that it had not been directed at her. She said she runs everything she says by Mesereau and does not violate the gag order because she talks about how Jackson is feeling and not about the case.

Later Wednesday, Jesse Jackson said Mesereau’s statement didn’t stem from his public comments, either, but that Mesereau had also expressed concerns to him.

“He made it very clear that he wanted to make sure the judge did not think he had a surrogate spokesperson,” he told The Associated Press, saying he spoke to the media of his own volition.