Prosecutors can call a child abuse expert to testify at Michael Jackson’s molestation trial, a judge ruled Friday, even as the defense claimed that the pop star’s young accuser was a liar.
Jackson’s lead attorney, Tom Mesereau, argued that the expert should not be allowed to tell jurors about the effects of child molestation if the 15-year-old boy and his family were making up the sex abuse in court.
“What if they are flat-out liars?” Mesereau asked Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville during a pretrial hearing in the case in the central California town of Santa Maria. “They have a history of lying in school ... and lying in the community.”
He added that the defense intended to argue that the boy and his siblings were lying to win money from Jackson and that the child abuse expert would be used by prosecutors to paper over holes in their testimony.
“What if the court says ’this case is ridiculous?” Mesereau said. “These people have no credibility at all.”
Prosecutors want the expert, whom they did not name in court, to testify that child victims often wait to report abuse, are reluctant to confide in those closest to them, give piecemeal accounts and retain an affection for their abuser.
They have asked that the the courtroom be closed when Jackson’s accuser takes the witness stand. Melville has not yet ruled on that request.
Melville said on Thursday that he would summon 750 possible jurors to his courtroom over three days beginning on Jan. 31, and would give questionnaires to those who can serve on a trial that is expected to last up to six months.
Lawyers would then scrutinize the questionnaires, which have not been made public, before formal jury selection begins the following week.
Jury selection is expected to take at least several weeks, which means opening statements in the sensational case would not likely begin before March. Some 80 news organizations from the U.S., Britain, Japan, Germany, Mexico and elsewhere have applied for seats in court or in a special overflow room.
Jackson is charged in a 10-count indictment with lewd acts on a child under the age of 14 and with conspiracy. The 46-year-old entertainer has pleaded not guilty.