Michael Jackson's defense team had counted on calling a litany of stars to speak on the singer's behalf, but one of those celebs wasn't allowed to testify Thursday, when Judge Rodney Melville ruled that what Larry King had to say was hearsay.
Instead, Jackson's attorneys turned to dismantling the conspiracy charges against the singer with perhaps their strongest witness yet, comedian Chris Tucker's former fiancee, Azja Pryor, who had spent a lot of time with the accuser's family.
King had gone back and forth about taking the stand in the first place, with his lawyer arguing he might invoke California's shield law, which protects journalists from revealing their sources. However, by late Wednesday afternoon, King agreed not to invoke the law regarding one specific conversation he had with Larry Feldman, an attorney representing the accusers in the current case as well as the 1993 case.
In a hearing outside the presence of the jury to determine if and how much King could testify about, the CNN talk show host said Feldman told him that while he believed the mother of the 1993 accuser, he had doubts about the mother in this case. King said Feldman called her a "wacko" and deemed her to be "in it for the money." Before prosecutors could even get up to cross-examine King, Melville said he saw no reason to allow King's testimony.
Pryor's testimony, however, made a much bigger impact. She met the accuser and his siblings in October 2000, when Tucker brought them to the house, and met their mother the following year, she said. Her relationship with the mother, she said, "was based on the love I have for the kids." Describing the close relationship she had with them, she began crying on the stand, saying it was hard to testify against them, "because I really do love the kids a lot."
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon was overheard by reporters then saying, "This is just going to make my cross [examination] a lot easier."
Pryor became so close to the family that when a Department of Child and Family Services social worker came to interview them, the accuser's mother requested Pryor's presence, she said. Pryor came but was not in the room when the actual interview took place. Afterward, Pryor said, the accuser's mother asked her to take the children to Neverland.
Pryor said the mother gave her no indication that she was being held against her will, being monitored, or being forced to do anything, such as participate in a video rebuttal to Martin Bashir's controversial "Living With Michael Jackson" documentary. In fact, she said, the mother was happy to do the video, because she thought her son's friendship with Jackson was taken out of context in the Bashir program. On one occasion, Pryor said, she asked the mother if they were getting compensated for doing the rebuttal video and the woman mentioned the offer of a college fund, adding that since her son had cancer and she "didn't know if her son would be alive in 10 years, what good is a college fund?"
Pryor also testified that the mother gave no indication she didn't want to go to Brazil, a trip prosecutors claim was part of a kidnapping plot. The mother was excited to go to carnival, Pryor said, and had invited Pryor to join her. The mother, however, was under the impression Jackson was also going on the trip, Pryor said. Suddenly one day, the mother told Pryor she didn't want to go to Brazil, which Jackson's lawyer Thomas Mesereau suggested was because the mother found out Jackson wasn't going.
The mother never complained about Jackson, Pryor said, but did have plenty to say about "the Germans," Jackson's then-managers Dieter Wiesner and Ronald Konitzer. Pryor said Wiesner and Konitzer were "rude" and "keeping her away from Michael."
Mesereau asked Pryor if the mother ever talked about escaping Neverland. "No," Pryor said. "It's Neverland. I don't know who would want to escape Neverland."
(CBS News contributed to this report.)
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see "Michael Jackson Accused."