SANTA MARIA, California — Closing arguments and rebuttals in the Michael Jackson child-molestation trial ended at 12:22 p.m. Friday. The case has been handed over to the 12-person jury, a collection of eight women and four men, who will now decide the pop star's fate.
Jurors deliberated for nearly two hours before calling it a day. No verdict was reached, and the panel will reconvene its discussion early Monday morning.
Shortly after closing remarks wrapped, a somber-looking Jackson and his entourage left the courthouse and got into a black SUV waiting outside. Judge Rodney Melville said he will allow the singer to return to his Neverland Ranch home while the deliberation takes place. Once the jury reaches a verdict, Jackson will be given one hour to return to court before the announcement is delivered.
During the prosecution's closing arguments, Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen defended the accuser, now 15, saying he was "entirely credible" and spent time trying to polish the image of both the boy and his mother, though he admitted she had some "shortcomings." He also told jurors that Jackson "should be held responsible for what he did."
Jackson's attorney Thomas Mesereau (who continued his argument on Friday) immediately went on the counterattack for his client, attempting to shred the credibility of the family and labeling the mother as a bona fide hustler.
"The list of people she hustled is endless," Mesereau said. "And why do these people phone lawyers before the police? ... As a jury, you have to ask yourself, 'Do I have any problem believing what [this woman] said?' If you have any suspicions, then Michael Jackson must go home and he must go free."
The prosecution spent just as much time attacking Jackson's character, calling him a "predator with a great deal of money and power" and painting the 46-year-old pop star as a man with a drinking problem.
Zonen said the firestorm began after the airing of Martin Bashir's documentary "Living With Michael Jackson" because it revealed that the singer "slept not just in the room, but in the bed with all these boys," he said. "Everyone who watched had the same reaction. Get that child out of there."
Mesereau said the prosecution revealed the weakness of its case by personally attacking Jackson during closing remarks, stating that when that happens, you know a lawyer has a problem with his own argument.
"This is not a popularity contest," Mesereau told the jury. "The life, future, freedom and reputation of Michael Jackson is at stake." At that point, he asked jurors if they believed the family of the accuser beyond a reasonable doubt. If not, he said, "Michael Jackson must go free."
As for the prosecution's courtroom display of all the pornography found in Jackson's home, Mesereau called that a "mean-spirited, barbaric attempt to dehumanize Michael Jackson." He said that District Attorney Tom Sneddon had been waging a personal vendetta against the singer since 1993 when he lost a battle to have charges filed against the singer in a 1993 child-molestation investigation (see "Michael Jackson's Legal Team Wants DA Off Case, Alleging He Seeks Revenge"). Mesereau said Sneddon is guilty of "absolute misconduct."
He also told the jury that the family and their civil attorney, Larry Feldman, would celebrate news of a conviction, because at that point they could file a civil suit against Jackson.
"You cannot let injustice be done," Mesereau said. "They're all ready to pounce."
Finally, he attempted to cast doubt on the prosecution's molestation timeline, asking, "How absurd is it to say that the molestations occurred between February 20 and March 12," a time period during which Jackson was under scrutiny following the airing of Bashir's documentary.
During the prosecution's closing remarks, Zonen argued Jackson had a pattern of behavior, showing a photo collage with the singer in the middle, surrounded by pictures of the accuser and other young boys he had been associated with, all of whom looked remarkably similar. He also showed graphic photos from adult magazines seized at Neverland and said showing porn to young boys prepped them for Jackson to become their "teacher," Zonen said.
As for the mother, Zonen asked the jury to consider that she is a "woman on her own with three kids" who "never asked for anything other than friendship and compassion." He acknowledged that she committed welfare fraud by making a false representation on her welfare application when she failed to note her family's $152,000 settlement with JC Penney (see "Jackson's Lawyers Grill Boy's Mom; Judge Admonishes Both Sides"), saying "she made a mistake." "At the age of 37, that's the only thing she's done that she should not have done."
While Zonen talked about the accuser's mother, court observers saw a couple of the members of the jury crossing their arms.
Finally, Zonen asked the jurors to use their "common sense." "You don't have to leave it at the door," he said.
Meanwhile, news reports swirled late Thursday that Jackson had visited the Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital near Neverland for treatment, although the reasons were unclear, according to CNN. The hospital would only confirm the singer made a brief visit, was not admitted and left soon after treatment for what some reports said was dehydration.
Jackson spokesperson Raymone K. Bain denied the claims to The Associated Press, insisting her client was never hospitalized. "Not true," she said, noting the rumors may have been fueled by advice from Jackson's nutritionist, who advised him to get a dose of electrolytes into his weak frame. Bain told the AP she did not know whether the singer followed through with the advice.
(CBS News contributed to this report.)
MTV News will have live coverage from Santa Maria on-air, online and in Overdrive when a verdict is handed down.
This story originally published at 4:39 ET on 06.02.2005
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see "Michael Jackson Accused."