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consider past allegations

Singer may face lesser alcohol charges; closing arguments could begin Wednesday
/ Source: The Associated Press

Michael Jackson stayed home Tuesday while lawyers and the judge in his child molestation trial tried to work out the instructions the jury will receive before beginning deliberations, likely this week.

After a day of wrangling, Judge Rodney S. Melville said he would finish Wednesday morning, bring jurors in at noon and instruct them, then have closing arguments begin Thursday.

Jackson was not present for the discussion of what should be contained in jury instructions.

One instruction approved by the judge addressed the importance of the TV documentary “Living With Michael Jackson,” in which Jackson’s future accuser appeared with Jackson and the pop star said he allowed children to sleep in his bed in an innocent, non-sexual way.

“I’m willing to give .... the instruction, ‘The video of Living With Michael Jackson is not offered for the truth of what is said except for certain identified passages,”’ the judge said. “‘The rest is considered hearsay and you can only consider that it aired and its impact if any on Mr. Jackson.”’

The passages the judge referred to were not specified in open court.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys also argued over how jurors should weigh the credibility of a witness and also debated what the jury should be told about judging Jackson based on the past allegations against him.

Judge Rodney S. Melville said he would tell the jurors they could consider the alleged past acts if they “tend to show intent” on Jackson’s part with regard to the crimes with which he is actually charged.

However, the jurors will have to decide whether the allegations of past acts — which never resulted in any criminal charges — were true.

“Evidence has been introduced for the purpose of showing the defendant committed crimes other than those for which he is on trial,” the approved instructions read. “This evidence, if believed, may be considered by you only for the limited purpose of deciding if it tends to show a characteristic plan or scheme to commit acts.”

Melville also agreed to tell the jurors that they are entitled to reject the testimony of a witness who is willfully false in any material fact, but are not required to do so if they feel the witness is truthful in other regards.

The allegations against Jackson that he gave his accuser wine will be under a separate category called “lesser included offenses,” which would allow jurors to find Jackson guilty of a misdemeanor of giving liquor to a minor even if he were acquitted of molestation.

The original indictment against Jackson alleged that alcohol was administered to assist in the alleged molestation.

Jackson, 46, is charged with molesting the then-13-year-old boy in February or March 2003, giving him wine and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut a damaging documentary about the pop star.

The arguments over the jury instructions droned on for hours.

“Your honor, if we had televised today’s proceedings we could have deterred an entire generation of kids from going to law school,” defense attorney Robert Sanger said.

Later, in discussion of a new instruction that jurors may not bring cell phones into deliberations, Sanger quipped, “That replaced the old one that had to do with bringing Ouija boards in.”