The prosecution wants jurors in Michael Jackson’s molestation trial to have their own screening of a British television documentary about the pop star, a show that the defense denounced as “heavily edited in the most sensational fashion possible.”
Broadcast in February 2003, “Living With Michael Jackson” was the trigger for an investigation leading to Jackson’s child molestation case. It contains footage of Jackson holding hands with the child who has alleged he was molested by the entertainer. It also shows Jackson, in his own words, defending his practice of letting young boys sleep with him.
In their motion to use the tape, prosecutors said its broadcast prompted Jackson and unindicted co-conspirators to abduct and imprison the accuser and his family, and to “extort” from them an agreement to appear in a “rebuttal” video.
“The jury cannot truly appreciate the strength of the motivation for the desperate actions undertaken by defendant and his co-conspirators in response to ‘Living with Michael Jackson’ without seeing what inspired that reaction,” according to a motion by District Attorney Tom Sneddon.
The motion called the TV broadcast “a public relations catastrophe for Michael Jackson” and said jurors could not grasp its impact on him without seeing it in its entirety, including comments from reporter Martin Bashir and commentator Barbara Walters on the version broadcast in the United States.
Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville blacked out several pages of the Sneddon’s motion before releasing it Wednesday.
In their response, the defense said the documentary constituted inadmissible hearsay and is a “theatrical” production that exploits Jackson to attract TV viewers.
“It is heavily edited in the most sensational fashion possible,” said the defense motion, “and contains highly inflammatory material regarding matters such as Mr. Jackson’s care of his own children, plastic surgery, Mr. Jackson’s financial affairs and other prejudicial matters.”
“Hollywood techniques were used to make the video more dramatic,” said the motion by defense attorney Robert Sanger. “Scenes are juxtaposed. The pace of the program is edited to build drama. It is not the kind of reliable evidence that should be presented to a jury.”
The defense accused the prosecution of trying to taint the jury with “a slickly produced Hollywood hit piece.”
Jackson, 46, was indicted in April on multiple counts of molestation and a count of conspiracy involving child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial beginning Monday.
In a separate motion, prosecutors said Bashir should be required to testify about the making of the documentary. His lawyers argue that he is covered by California’s reporters’ shield law and the First Amendment and can’t be forced to testify.
The prosecutors say they want him to tell jurors whether any of the incidents on the video were “staged” or whether everything was spontaneous. They offer a long list of questions they would ask him including how he formed the opinions he expressed about Jackson on the video.
In another motion released Wednesday, defense attorneys advocated individual questioning of each prospective juror out of the presence of others in the jury pool. They said that the recent leak of grand jury transcripts in the case “created the maximum potential for prejudice to Mr. Jackson’s ... right to a fair trial.”
The judge is expected to rule on the motions at a hearing Friday.