Michael Jackson’s lawyers could rest their case in his child molestation trial as early as Tuesday, once testimony has been heard from two more celebrity witnesses — “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno and comedian Chris Tucker.
“We’re approaching the end of trial rapidly,” prosecutor Ron Zonen told the judge Friday. “We believe the defense has indicated that they will rest next Tuesday.”
Jackson’s lawyers have kept their strategy a closely guarded secret, but the 46-year-old pop star’s spokeswoman, Raymone Bain, has confirmed that Leno and Tucker would take the witness stand in the coming days.
Tucker befriended Jackson’s young accuser at a Hollywood comedy camp, supported the boy through cancer and was present for key events in the case.
Leno told police he received what he considered a suspicious phone call from the boy and could hear him being coached by his mother — a woman portrayed by the defense as a grifter who targeted the rich and famous.
Defense attorneys have not said whether Jackson will testify, as lead attorney Tom Mesereau suggested in his opening statement, or if jurors would hear from film legend Elizabeth Taylor, who has been listed as a potential witness.
After the defense rests, prosecutors were expected to present a brief rebuttal case, clearing the way for closing arguments within weeks.
Jackson is charged with molesting a 13-year-old boy at his Neverland Valley Ranch in February or March of 2003, plying the young cancer patient with alcohol and conspiring to commit child abduction, extortion and false imprisonment. He faces more than 20 years in prison if convicted.
‘I feel deceived’Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville handed the defense a victory on Friday when he ruled that Jackson’s former attorney, Mark Geragos, could resume his testimony after it was abruptly halted last week.
Jackson waived an attorney-client privilege so Geragos could testify. But midway through the day defense lawyers told the judge that the waiver was limited to events before Jackson’s November 2003 arrest. This prompted an objection from prosecutors that the move had limited cross examination.
The judge reluctantly agreed to allow Geragos to continue testifying under limited waiver, but said he might sanction the defense.
“I feel deceived by Mr. Mesereau,” he said. “Although I’ve reached no conclusions yet, I’m considering some sort of sanction against Mr Mesereau.”
Geragos was summoned by the defense to testify that it was he and not Jackson who put the accuser’s family under surveillance in February and March of 2003, and repeated that assertion under questioning by prosecutor Zonen.
During an often contentious cross-examination that saw testy exchanges between Geragos and Zonen and repeated objections from Mesereau, Geragos refused to concede that he or his investigators had done anything improper.
“The concern was they were either going to meet with a lawyer or sell their story to the tabloids,” said Geragos, a high-profile litigator who has also represented actress Winona Ryder.