Jackson judge threatens to close court
Combative exchanges between defense attorney, accuser's mother
SANTA MARIA, California (CNN) -- Exchanges between the mother of Michael Jackson's accuser and the pop star's lead defense attorney were so combative Friday that the judge threatened to end court for the day after listening to hours of sniping between the witness and lawyer.
"Do you want me to shut the trial down this afternoon?" Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville said after one exchange between the prosecution and defense over the woman's testimony. "You are not to engage in this kind of interaction with each other, or the witness."
Throughout defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr.'s grilling of the mother, she sparred with him, frequently addressing jurors directly to offer her unsolicited, and unvarnished, opinions about Jackson's lead lawyer.
After Melville struck a comment she made about her faithful religious observance, she turned to the jury, pointed at Mesereau and said, "He doesn't want you to know."
"Two years I've been waiting for this," she said.
At turns feisty and combative, the mother even baited Jackson to come to the stand.
Asked which of Jackson's associates created a script the woman says was used to prepare a video in which the family heaped praise on Jackson, she told Mesereau that he would have to ask them.
"Or Michael. He could come up here," she said.
When Mesereau pressed her over and over about whether she was "lying" on the tape when she made positive comments about Jackson, she replied repeatedly that she was "acting" and following a script she had to memorize.
"You're not going to call Halle Berry and ask, 'Are you Catwoman?'" she said.
A grand jury indicted the 46-year-old Jackson last year on charges of molesting a boy -- now 15 -- giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold him and his family captive in 2003. Jackson has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The accuser's name is being withheld because it is CNN's policy not to reveal the names of the underage accuser or members of his family.
Woman concedes previous false testimony
Throughout seven weeks of testimony, the defense has sought to portray the accuser's mother as the greedy villain at the hub of false child molestation allegations against the entertainer.
Once Mesereau finally got his chance to question her, he got the mother to concede that she lied under oath in a deposition she gave in a 2000 civil suit against J.C. Penney, when she said that her husband, whom she later divorced, had never abused her or her children.
She alleged in the suit that she had been manhandled by security guards, after they tried to apprehend her son for shoplifting.
The mother explained that after finally getting away from her husband, she contacted her attorney and tried to get her testimony corrected -- after the family had shared in a $152,000 settlement with the retailer.
"I finally was liberated to say," she said, telling jurors that she filed for divorce "after (her husband) was finally arrested for domestic violence."
Mesereau, however, made sure jurors knew her divorce filing came just five days after the case was settled.
Challenged by Mesereau about why she was still praising Jackson at a time in February 2003 when she says she and her family were under siege from his associates, she insisted that at the time she was "still clueless" and thought Jackson was "still a good guy."
"Now I know that Neverland is all about booze, pornography and sex with boys," she said -- a remark which was also stricken.
'We want justice'
In another contentious exchange, the mother told Mesereau that she had done an "inadequate" job on a rebuttal videotape Jackson's camp wanted her to make because "I'm a poor actress."
"I think you're a good one," Mesereau retorted -- prompting Melville to tell the attorney that he expected more professional conduct. Melville also told the mother to answer Mesereau's questions and stop arguing with him.
Mesereau also challenged the mother's testimony that she has no plans to seek money from Jackson because it is "not my nature," pressing her on whether she knew what the deadlines were for filing a civil claim against him over the molestation allegations.
"We will never file a claim against Michael Jackson. We want justice," the mother said. However, when Mesereau persisted in asking if she knew the deadlines, she finally admitted, "I think so."
Under questioning by prosecutors, the mother had testified Jackson and his associates had persuaded her that unidentified "killers" were after the family, following the accuser's appearance with Jackson in a February 2003 television documentary.
However, the mother admitted that in a phone call with Jackson associate Frank Tyson, recorded during that period, she never mentioned any death threats.
The mother also admitted Friday that she once told police that her ex-husband had inappropriately touched their daughter, after officers were called to their home to respond to a report of domestic violence.
However, the woman seemed to try to downplay the accusation, saying "it was a one-sentence statement" given to officers from the Los Angeles Police Department after "they asked for a history" of problems in the family.
Mother downplays child welfare probe
Mesereau also pressed the woman about a child welfare investigation back in the 1990s, triggered after her son -- the accuser -- alleged she had abused him.
The mother said the probe by the state Division of Children and Family Services began after a school nurse wanted to send her son home early, and the boy expressed reluctance to go. The nurse, interpreting the conversation as a sign of possible abuse, called DCFS, the mother said.
She said no action was ever taken against her, and she described her interaction with the DCFS case workers as "positive."
The mother's cross-examination began Friday morning, after prosecutors completed their questioning of her by showing surveillance videotapes found in the office of Brad Miller, a private investigator working for Jackson's former attorney, Mark Geragos.
One of those videotapes, shot in March 2003, showed the family's belongings being packed up and moved from their apartment in east Los Angeles, around the time the mother said Jackson's associates were preparing to send them to Brazil.
The mother, who insists she never authorized anyone to move the family out of the apartment, identified a Jackson security guard, named Asef, as the person shooting the tape.
Other tapes showed the outside of her parents' home in the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte, including shots of her mother and father, and the parking garage of the apartment complex where her boyfriend lived, along with footage of him walking in a nearby neighborhood.
During her testimony Thursday, the mother said that during a campaign by Jackson's associates to get her to help with damage control efforts, a car followed her. One of the tapes -- shot from a vehicle that was following another vehicle in which she and another Jackson associate were riding -- appeared to corroborate that testimony.
Both the mother and her then-boyfriend, now her husband, also had testified that in the months following their final break with Jackson, they were harassed and followed by his associates and security guards.
Footage shown in court in Friday, shot less than a week after the family left Neverland for the final time, showed the woman's daughter being filmed as she walked to her grandparents house after school. Several times, the girl looks back toward the camera, apparently aware of the surveillance.
"She looks scared," the mother said -- a remark that was stricken after the defense objected.
CNN's Dree De Clamecy contributed to this report.