Limits Set on Questioning of Jackson Accuser
By Stuart Pfeifer and Michael Muskal
Times Staff Writers
10:46 AM PDT, May 27, 2005
SANTA MARIA, Calif. – The prosecution and defense this morning argued over the ground rules for quizzing the boy who says he was molested by Michael Jackson.
Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville said he would allow the defense to question the boy on the stand to counter a videotape of the boy's first interview with Santa Barbara County sheriff's investigators. The tape will likely be shown to jurors today.
Melville said he allowed the tape to illustrate the accuser's demeanor and would limit the defense's questions to that area.
"I'm not opening up this trial for anybody," said Melville, making it clear he wants to get the case to the jury in a timely fashion.
Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Ron Zonen said he expected the prosecution to complete its rebuttal case Tuesday. The defense then gets to present its side, called a surrebuttal, which could include the accuser, his mother and psychologist Stan Katz, who interviewed the accuser in June 2003.
Jackson, 46, is charged with molesting the boy, then 13, early in 2003 at the star's Neverland ranch.
Katz has already testified that the interview led him to believe that the boy was molested. Katz and the accuser's family attorney, Larry Feldman, then contacted authorities.
The prosecution is hoping to use the July 2003 tape to show the boy was reluctant to make the molestation charge, countering the defense contention that the boy was following a script as part of a plot by the family to shake down Jackson. The boy has already testified to details of two incidents he alleges were molestations.
"For us the significance is simply the way the disclosure was made," Santa Barbara County Dist. Atty. Thomas Sneddon said this morning.
Defense attorney Robert Sanger denied that the boy's comment were as spontaneous as they appear. He also said that the boy may have told Katz about the molestation earlier. Melville said the defense could address that issue in its surrebuttal.
Melville also ruled that Mark Geragos, who was formerly Jackson's attorney, has to turn over records on the case to the prosecution. Geragos testified earlier under a limited waiver of attorney-client privilege.
The documents will be given to the prosecution Monday, explaining why the prosecution will not rest until the next day. Originally, the prosecution had expected to complete its case today.
In addition to molestation, Jackson is charged with giving his accuser alcohol and of conspiring with aides to control the accuser's family so they would participate in an interview favorable to the singer.