As court appearances go, it was a Hollywood-style production, with Michael Jackson and his family dressed all in white as they approached the court in a chauffeured double-decker bus.
Once inside, the Jacksons sat for hours staring stonily at their arch enemy, the prosecutor who is once again trying to send pop superstar Michael Jackson to prison on child molestation charges.
In Judge Rodney Melville’s courtroom, defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. spent more than three hours grilling Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon in a carefully crafted attack.
Mesereau attempted to show that Sneddon violated Jackson’s attorney-client privilege by searching the office of a private investigator hired by the entertainer’s former attorney.
Jackson, 45, is charged with committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on $3 million bail.
During Sneddon’s 3½ hours on the witness stand there were no Perry Mason moments to change the course of the case. The prosecutor clung steadfastly to his statements that he was unaware of a professional relationship between Jackson’s former lawyer Mark Geragos and private investigator Bradley Miller, whose office was searched last November for evidence.
Defense to grill psychologistMore witnesses are due to testify at the hearing, which is expected to last throughout the week. Mesereau has subpoenaed, among others, the psychologist who first reported the alleged molestation of a 12-year-old boy and an attorney who represented the boy’s mother for a time.
The Jackson family was not expected to return to court for their testimony.
Outside court Monday, about 100 fans crowded against a chain-link fence shouting “Michael! Michael!” and screaming their approval when Jackson strolled past, wearing mirrored sunglasses and accompanied by an aide holding a black umbrella to shield him from the sun.
Monday’s exchanges between Mesereau and Sneddon were testy at times.
At one point, Sneddon said he didn’t know how the defense wanted him to answer a question. “Truthfully, hopefully,” Mesereau replied.
Sneddon acknowledged telling defense attorneys in July he knew Miller worked for Geragos but testified he retracted the statement the next day.
“It was a mistake,” he said.
Mesereau is seeking to have evidence taken from Miller’s office excluded. If successful, the move could undermine the prosecution case and is one of the issues that must be resolved before Jackson’s scheduled Jan. 31 trial.
Jackson, who wore a gold brocade armband over a white suit, sat perfectly still and stared at the prosecutor during his testimony. Five Jackson siblings, also dressed in white, filled a row of the courtroom audience. Jackson brother Jermaine wore a long flowing white robe trimmed in gold brocade.
The family left after Sneddon finished his testimony.
Ten years ago, Sneddon also tried to build a child-molestation case against Jackson. But it fell apart when the singer’s accuser reportedly accepted a multimillion-dollar civil settlement and refused to testify in any criminal case.