Michael Jackson's camp was shaken up Wednesday by concerns over a court-imposed gag order as jurors finished their third full day of deliberations on the child molestation charges that could land the singer in prison.
Lead Jackson defense lawyer Tom Mesereau Jr. met with the judge in the case and released a statement that seemed to chastise two advisers to the pop star.
“I have not authorized anyone to speak or hold any press conferences on behalf of Michael Jackson or his family,” Mesereau said. “A gag order is in effect which the defense team will continue to honor.”
A similar statement attributed to Jackson and his family appeared on the Mjjsource.com Web site Wednesday afternoon: “The efforts of Michael Jackson's friends and supporters are noticed and very much appreciated at this time. However, only Michael Jackson's attorneys of record have been authorized to speak on his behalf.”
The statements came after Jackson spokeswoman Raymone Bain and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a friend and adviser to the Jackson family, publicly appeared to discuss the singer's health and spirits.
Both sides are under a court-imposed gag order not to discuss the case in public.
Lawyers for both sides met in chambers with Judge Rodney Melville prior to Wednesday's announcements. Melville had initially planned to release a statement himself.
Earlier Wednesday, Bain had earlier insisted she was appearing with the blessings of Jackson's camp: “If Mr. Mesereau didn't want me here I wouldn't be here ... so don't listen to so many rumors.”
After Mesereau's statement, Bain insisted it had not been directed at her. “It appears Mr. Mesereau is concerned about a number of people who have been going to the court, using the court as a forum,” she told the Associated Press in a telephone interview. “He's concerned people who do not have the authority to speak on Mr. Jackson's behalf are out there.”
She said she runs everything she says by Mesereau and does not violate the gag order because she talks about how Jackson is feeling, not about the case. “I am Mr. Jackson's personal publicist and spokesman so that (the gag order) does not apply to me,” she said.
Bain spoke for Jackson again Wednesday night when she confirmed by phone that the entertainer had visited a hospital near his Neverland Ranch home on Wednesday afternoon for what she said was a scheduled appointment.
It was Jackson’s second confirmed visit to Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital for back trouble this week. He also visited the hospital on Sunday.
3rd full day for juryThe conflicting statements came after jurors arrived Wednesday morning and headed into the courthouse, entering the jury room at 8:22 a.m. PT.
They finished their day's work at 2:24 p.m. and piled back into vans to leave the courthouse. They did not make any apparent requests of Melville or ask any additional questions during the day.
As ordered by the judge, the panel meets daily from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. PT with three 10-minute breaks and no lunch recess. They are seen only when they arrive and depart, shuttled in two white vans and escorted by sheriff’s deputies.
The jury was scheduled for only a half-day session Thursday. No reason 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.
Besides the gag order, Melville has kept tight control over the proceedings, holding hearings in his chambers and sealing key documents that are usually public -- including the 10-count Santa Barbara County grand jury indictment against Jackson.
Jesse Jackson visitsFans were excited Monday as Jackson's father, Joe Jackson, visited the courthouse. Then on Tuesday, Jesse Jackson appeared to say the singer was optimistic as he awaited the jury's decision.
"If Michael's friends did not stand up for him in a public way, you would ask, 'Where are they?'" Jesse Jackson said. He also said that rumors have continued to swirl about Jackson's health and he wanted to reassure everyone that "he is resting comfortably" in spite of great back pain.
Jackson appeared again Wednesday, complaining that jurors were being subjected to “psychological warfare” because of a television report in which a former Santa Barbara County sheriff showed a jail where the singer might go if convicted and immediately ordered into custody.
“One might call it a kind of psychological warfare,” the minister said. “With an unsequestered jury, they are saying here is where he will stay.”
Images of jailIn the Tuesday report, former sheriff Jim Thomas, a consultant for NBC, appeared at the main jail in Santa Barbara with MSNBC host Dan Abrams. Thomas showed Abrams the outside of the jail and talked about what would happen if Jackson is convicted and taken there. Pool video footage of the inside of the jail was shown.
Asked if the defendant was upset by the visuals of the jail, Jesse Jackson said, “He’s not watching television.”
Thomas responded to the Rev. Jackson’s statements Wednesday, saying, “I think the jurors are quite capable of figuring out where he’ll go, if he’s convicted, without my help.” The jury has been ordered to avoid all news reports on the trial.
The 46-year-old singer is charged with molesting a 13-year-old cancer survivor in 2003, giving the boy alcohol and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut a documentary in which Jackson appeared with the boy and said he let children into his bed but it was nonsexual.
In the absence of news from the jury, a weary anticipation has settled over the courthouse, where hundreds of journalists and Jackson fans bake in the California sun as they speculate on the jury’s progress.
“His life depends on 12 guys and they’re taking too long,” said fan Marcos Cabota, who had traveled from Spain to be in California for the culmination of the four-month trial.
Jackson himself is waiting out the verdict at his Neverland ranch, about 20 minutes away by car.
A handful of fans have been keeping their own vigil on a dirt road outside Neverland, where some have left messages of support along the split-rail fence.