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Judge gives Jackson jury instructions

Closing arguments begin Thursday; case should go to jury Friday
/ Source: NBC News and news services

Jurors in the Michael Jackson trial were given the instructions Wednesday that will govern their deliberations into whether the pop star molested a teenage boy.

Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville told jurors that closing arguments will begin Thursday and they will be given the case sometime Friday.

Jackson sat stone-still for nearly two hours as the judge read lengthy instructions hammered out by attorneys over more than a day. Jackson appeared glum as he left the courthouse, rushing past reporters at the end of the day.

The pop star was “nervous” and “upset,” said his spokeswoman, Raymone K. Bain.

“He realizes in the next few days there will be jury deliberations,” she said. “It’s a very difficult situation to sit in there and know your life is in the balance. He has strong faith in God and in the judicial system. He knows his fate is in the hands of 12 jurors.”

Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old cancer survivor in February or March 2003, plying him with wine and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut damaging aspects of the documentary “Living With Michael Jackson.” The documentary showed Jackson holding hands with the boy and the singer saying he allows children to sleep in his bed in an innocent way.

Sitting in the witness box to be closer to the jury, the judge listed the 10-count indictment against Jackson, which includes four counts of committing a lewd act on a minor. The indictment also alleges one count of an attempted lewd act, one count of conspiracy involving child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion, and four counts of administering alcohol for the purpose of committing a child molestation.

Following up on an earlier decision regarding the alcohol allegations, the judge told the jurors they may consider a “lesser charge” of “furnishing alcohol to a minor,” a misdemeanor. The instruction means the jury would not have to relate the alcohol to the purpose of molestation.

Melville also told the jury how to use prosecution testimony that alleged Jackson has a history of improper behavior with boys.

The judge said that if jurors determine Jackson has such a history, “you may but are not required to infer that the defendant had a predisposition” to commit the crimes alleged in the current case. But he told the jurors “that is not sufficient in itself to prove he committed the crimes charged.”

The judge paused at one point to determine if the jurors were paying attention.

“You know I read to my wife at night so she’ll go to sleep. Am I having that effect here?” he said.