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Fingerprint analysis takes center stage at trial

Sheriff's examiner found print from accuser's brother on adult magazine
/ Source: The Associated Press

A sheriff’s technician testified Thursday in Michael Jackson’s molestation trial that she found a fingerprint from the brother of Jackson’s accuser in an adult magazine seized from the singer’s home.

Over defense objections, prosecutors also showed jurors hardcore sex images from magazine pages on which they said other prints were found, although they did not immediately identify the prints.

“These are graphic images with fingerprints we will show are particularly relevant to this case,” said Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss.

The prosecution began presenting testimony on fingerprint evidence to support the boys’ accounts that the pop star showed them sexually explicit magazines at his Neverland ranch.

The testimony followed an effort by defense attorney Robert Sanger to undermine the reliability of the results. He elicited testimony that the magazines were not tested for fingerprints until months after they were seized — and then only after some of them were used in grand jury hearings in which the accuser could have handled them.

Technician Lisa Hemman said the brother’s fingerprint was found on a page of a magazine called Finally Legal.

She said she and another examiner initially ruled the print inconclusive in September and October of 2004, but that it was re-examined and found conclusive in a report filed in January.

“As an examiner you always go on the edge of caution,” she explained. “If you don’t want to rush a job you make it inconclusive.”

Narrowing prints down to three peopleHemman said the process involved comparing hundreds of fingerprints to those of three people. She did not name the three, who presumably were the accuser, his brother and Jackson.

She said on first examination they concluded the fingerprint was inconclusive.

“With respect to that particular print, did you have a belief as to who the print was made by when you ruled it inconclusive?” asked Deputy District Attorney Mag Nicola.

“Yes,” she said, and named the brother of the accuser.

Hemman also testified the fingerprint of another minor was found but she did not identify that person.

There was no immediate testimony about a magazine alleged to have both a print from the accuser and Jackson.

Jackson is accused of molesting a boy at Neverland in February or March 2003. The magazines were seized in November 2003. The grand jury heard testimony in spring 2004 and fingerprinting was done later that year.

Sanger also elicited testimony from forensic experts focusing on the time between the seizure of the evidence and when it was subjected to fingerprint analysis, suggesting the evidence could degrade.

But Hemman explained why fingerprint analysis was not done immediately.

“We wanted to preserve DNA evidence. Processing for fingerprints could destroy DNA. So you do the testing for DNA before you do the fingerprint testing,” she said.

George Lopez to testify
Prosecutors said they will call George Lopez as a witness Monday. Lopez is among comedians who helped the accuser’s family as the boy battled cancer, but later had a falling out.

Also, lead defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. said co-counsel Brian Oxman was released from a hospital where he was taken for treatment of pneumonia Wednesday.

Late in the day, prosecutors asked Judge Rodney Melville to issue an order asking Las Vegas officials to send a witness jailed there to California. The petition asks that one of Jackson’s former bodyguards be present to testify April 4.

Christopher E. Carter, 25, was indicted Wednesday on unrelated charges of kidnapping, burglary and robbery. He was expected to testify he once found Jackson’s accuser inebriated, and that the boy told him Jackson had encouraged him to drink, prosecutors said.

Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old cancer patient at Neverland, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold the boy’s family captive to get them to make a video rebutting a Feb. 6, 2003, documentary in which he appeared with the boy and said he let children sleep in his bed, but that it was innocent and non-sexual.

The star, who sat unmoving through Thursday’s testimony, said as he left the courthouse: “Still very much in pain — my back and my side.” He then turned toward cameras and said, “I’d like to say hello to the people of Santa Maria, my friends and neighbors.”