As the prosecution nears the end of its case against Michael Jackson, jurors face a dilemma: How much should they believe testimony from key witnesses who have admitted past lies?
Prosecutors insist the family of the boy who accused Jackson of molesting him lied only under pressure — first from an abusive father and then from Jackson and his associates.
But defense attorneys, who could begin their case later this week, will urge jurors to discount the family’s testimony altogether because of those previous false statements.
Jurors might find some lies easier to excuse than others, said Jean Rosenbluth, a University of Southern California law professor.
For example, the accuser testified that he lied to a school official, when he said Jackson had not molested him, because he didn’t want his classmates to make fun of him.
“A lot of kids might lie to avoid being teased by other kids,” Rosenbluth said. “I think that’s something that jurors will feel did not really discredit everything he said.”
Whether jurors believe the family’s accounts will depend in part on how well the prosecution has corroborated their statements during its eight-week case.
Some of the claims by the boy’s mother — such as her admission that she once feared her family would disappear from Jackson’s Neverland estate in a hot-air balloon — may have sounded outrageous, said Ann Bremner, a trial analyst and former prosecutor.
But the mother may have gained credibility on other issues. For example, to support her claim that she feared her family was in danger, prosecutors showed videotapes found in a private investigator’s office to demonstrate that Jackson associates had closely monitored the boy’s family while he, his mother and siblings were allegedly being held captive by Jackson at Neverland.
The tapes included footage taken outside the home of the accuser’s grandparents and in the parking garage of the mother’s then-boyfriend. The woman has said Jackson’s people kept her in line by threatening her parents and boyfriend.
“Sometimes madness is wisdom. It may sound kind of wackadoodle, but this is his world,” Bremner said. “Everyone knows that Michael Jackson has a separate reality.”
'Acting' and liesThe mother also said she was “acting” in a February 2003 videotaped interview in which her family praised Jackson. She said every moment was scripted by a Jackson associate.
The woman’s three children, including the accuser, also said they had lied in the videotaped interview, made by Jackson associates to counter “Living With Michael Jackson,” a documentary that appeared on ABC.
In that broadcast documentary, Jackson and the boy were shown holding hands and the pop star acknowledged having innocent, nonsexual sleepovers with children.
Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting the boy in February or March 2003, giving the boy alcohol and conspiring to hold the boy’s family captive to get them to rebut the documentary.
The woman also admitted lying in a 1999 lawsuit against J.C. Penney when she said her then-husband was an honest person and had never abused her. The family received a $152,000 settlement after alleging they were beaten by security guards at a J.C. Penney store.
District Attorney Tom Sneddon said the woman had lied because she feared her husband would beat her if she told the truth.
Defense lawyers contend the boy’s family is making false claims against Jackson to get his money, a claim the family denies.
They have submitted a lengthy list of potential celebrity witnesses, including Jay Leno and Kobe Bryant, to show the family has a history of trying to attach themselves to the rich and famous.
Prosecutors said last week they planned to rest their case during this, the trial’s ninth week, clearing the way for Jackson’s attorneys to begin their defense of the pop star.
Judge Rodney Melville said Thursday he would allow testimony from Chris Carter, a former Jackson security guard who was recently arrested for investigation of robbery in Las Vegas. Carter was among those expected to testify this week.
Speculation also has mounted about whether prosecutors will call the pop star’s former wife, Debbie Rowe. Rowe is battling Jackson for custody of their two children, Prince, 8, and Paris, 7.