Jurors in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial Tuesday watched the TV documentary that sparked the case, seeing the pop star hold hands with his accuser and talk about hosting sleepovers with children at his Neverland Ranch.
The documentary “Living With Michael Jackson” was shown after defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. finished an opening statement in which he suggested the entertainer may testify and said authorities found no DNA evidence in the entertainer’s bedroom to support the charges. Jackson is not on the defense witness list.
Prosecutors say Jackson plied his accuser, then a 13-year-old cancer survivor, with alcohol and showed him sexually explicit images before molesting him at Neverland.
“Mr. Jackson will freely admit that he does read girlie magazines from time to time,” Mesereau said. “He absolutely does not show them to children.”
Jurors watched the documentary after prosecutors called its maker, British journalist Martin Bashir, to the stand. The documentary, taped in 2002 and aired in 2003, led to the investigation that ultimately resulted in the charges against Jackson.
During the viewing, Jackson dabbed his eyes with a tissue during a segment in which he says children are his reason for living.
As the jurors watched on a large screen in the hushed courtroom, some leaned forward in their seats, a few smiled or laughed when Jackson said humorous things, and a few bobbed their heads along with Jackson’s music. Some smiled when the video showed Jackson singing “smile while your heart is breaking” as he left a hotel.
Sympathetic portrayal of JacksonAlthough the documentary is best known for Jackson’s comments about allowing children to sleep in his bed, it also exposed jurors to a sympathetic portrayal of Jackson. The singer is seen racing go-carts and climbing trees, as well as teaching Bashir how to “moonwalk.”
At one point Jackson emotionally describes abuse that he claims he and his brothers received from their father, Joe Jackson, during their days in the Jackson 5.
“I remember hearing my mother scream, ‘Joe, you’re going to kill him,”’ Jackson says at one point.
The documentary also referred to Jackson’s relationships with adult women, and briefly showed the 2002 incident in which he dangled one of his children from a hotel balcony in Germany.
At one point, Jackson appears with the accuser and his brother and sister. The children do a dance routine in Jackson’s kitchen.
Later the boy holds hands with Jackson and says the pop star is perpetually childlike and understands children.
“He’s really a child at heart,” the boy tells an interviewer. “You’re an adult when you want to be one.”
When the boy says that Jackson once told him and his brother, “If you love me you’ll sleep in the bed,” Jackson tells the interviewer that the children slept in his bed and he slept on the floor in a sleeping bag.
Holding the boy’s hand tightly, Jackson says, “My greatest inspiration comes from kids. It’s all inspired by that level of purity. I see God in the face of children.”
After the viewing, Mesereau sought to have Bashir’s testimony and the documentary stricken when Bashir refused to say how many hours of videotape were recorded during the making of the program.
Judge Rodney S. Melville refused to strike the video or the testimony.
As Bashir was being peppered with questions by Mesereau, the witness’ attorney repeatedly invoked California’s shield law for reporters and the First Amendment, saying that as a journalist Bashir did not have to answer questions about unpublished materials. Bashir refused to answer about 30 times
Jackson appeared agitated when Bashir was on the stand, at one point putting out his arms as if to tell him to speak up. Bashir was testifying in a near-whisper.
As Jackson left court, reporters asked him how he was feeling. He said “good,” then added “angry.” He thanked reporters and walked away.
In his opening statement, Mesereau earlier accused the prosecution of changing the dates of the alleged molestation because they were in conflict with an interview between child welfare workers and the family.
Mesereau also said the mother was using the criminal charges to build a civil case in order to get a payoff, and he addressed allegations that Jackson showed sexually explicit images and gave alcohol to his accuser and his brother.
Mesereau said the children were sometimes “out of control” at Neverland and read Jackson’s magazines and broke into his alcohol without his permission.