Just hours before jurors were to begin deliberations for a fifth day, Michael Jackson made his third trip to the hospital in a week. The singer returned to the Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital on Wednesday night for previously scheduled "routine treatment" of back spasms that have bothered him throughout the trial, sending him to the emergency room two times.
After the two-hour visit, a bodyguard drove Jackson's black SUV quickly by reporters outside the hospital at 12:20 a.m. PDT with its headlights turned off as the singer was shielded from view by a black curtain in the back seat, according to a Reuters report. Thursday (June 9) will be a short deliberation day for the jurors because at least one panelist has to attend a graduation ceremony.
While there has been little or no indication from the jury which way they are leaning, controversy continues to swirl around the trial, even about something as innocuous as Jackson's back-pain checkup.
On Wednesday, Jackson's attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr., released a statement explaining that he has not given clearance to anyone to hold news conferences on behalf of the pop star. The statement, approved by the court, was apparently meant to prove that the defense team had not violated a strict gag order on the trial imposed by Judge Rodney Melville, according to The Associated Press.
"I have not authorized anyone to speak or hold any press conferences on behalf of Michael Jackson or his family," Mesereau said in the statement, which was posted on Jackson's official Web site. "A gag order is in effect which the defense team will continue to honor."
Mesereau did not name names, but the statement was issued shortly after Jackson's spokesperson, Raymone K. Bain, held a news conference outside the courthouse in which she suggested that Mesereau had approved her comments. "If Mr.
Mesereau didn't want me here, I wouldn't be here. I never speak to the media without talking to Mr. Mesereau," Bain said.
The flap came after Bain spoke to reporters on Wednesday to confirm plans for Jackson's latest hospital visit. Bain said the lawyer's comments were not directed at her, since she runs everything by Mesereau and only speaks to reporters about how Jackson is feeling, not the specifics of the case. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, who has frequently discussed the singer's frame of mind and spoken of daily prayer meetings he's held with Jackson, also denied that Mesereau's statement was aimed at him.
"He [Mesereau] made it very clear that he wanted to make sure the judge did not think he had a surrogate spokesperson," Rev. Jackson told the AP, explaining that he had spoken to the media on his own. The Rev. Jackson had made a statement earlier in the day Wednesday in which he said the jury was being subjected to "psychological warfare" because of an MSNBC report on Tuesday in which former Santa Barbara County sheriff Jim Thomas toured a jail where the singer might go if convicted. "With an unsequestered jury, they are saying here is where he will stay," Jackson said.
Though the jury has been instructed to avoid all news reports on the trial, Thomas quickly responded to the Rev. Jackson's statements Wednesday, saying, "I think the jurors are quite capable of figuring out where he'll go, if he's convicted, without my help."
MTV News will have live coverage from Santa Maria on-air, online and in Overdrive when a verdict is handed down.
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see "Michael Jackson Accused."