Defense Rests at Michael Jackson Trial

The defense rests in the Michael Jackson case after presenting two celebrity witnesses who told of their past encounters with the accuser and his parents. The singer is accused of molesting a young boy. His defense lawyers argued that the charges are false and are an attempt to get money from Jackson.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

A big question in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial was resolved today. The pop star will not testify on his own behalf. This morning, the defense rested without calling Jackson to the stand. But the jury did hear from another in a long line of celebrity witnesses who've questioned the motives of Jackson's young accuser. NPR's Carrie Kahn joins us from the press room at the courthouse in Santa Maria, California.

Carrie, how did the defense wrap up its case today?

CARRIE KAHN reporting:

Well, they brought on comedian and actor Chris Tucker; Tucker's a friend of Jackson's. He told jurors about suspicions he had of the accuser and the boy's family. He called the boy unusually sophisticated and cunning in the way he would get money and gifts from Mr. Tucker. And he said that he became very suspicious of them after one time he invited them to Las Vegas to the set of one of his movies, and the family stayed for more than three weeks. He said at one point when they were all in Miami together, he pulled Michael Jackson away and he said, `Look, Michael, something ain't right about this family.'

Tucker's demeanor changed, though, under cross-examination, and he became very uncooperative and frequently saying he couldn't remember details.

NORRIS: So today, we hear from Chris Tucker. Yesterday, the defense put talk show host Jay Leno on the stand. Why so many celebrity witnesses?

KAHN: Well, the defense has been trying to show that the boy, and particularly his mother--that she has a history of shaking down comedians and asking them for money. That's part of their--what they've been doing is portraying her as a grifter, as a shakedown artist.

Jay Leno, however, was a mixed bag for the defense. Jackson's defense attorney had promised in the opening statements that we would hear Leno say that the boy had been coached by his mom and had asked him for money. Leno did say that he was suspicious of the boy's praise for him, but that the boy never asked Leno for money.

You know, Leno constantly skewers Jackson in his monologues on "The Tonight Show." And in this constant art imitating life and vice versa here, last night during a skit, Leno joked about being called as a defense witness for the--a witness for the defense, and he said, `Apparently, they've never seen this program.' And we didn't see, however, some of the big star power that was on the defense's witness list, like Elizabeth Taylor, Kobe Bryant or Stevie Wonder.

NORRIS: At one time, the defense team had hinted that they might call Jackson to testify, but they didn't. Why not?

KAHN: Well, legal experts that I've talked to say that this is a very risky motion. A lot of allegations have been brought up of Michael Jackson, about his use of alcohol, pornographic materials in his home. That is all risky when you talk to him. He could deny the molestation accusations, but talking about other aspects is very risky. And they actually did play a three-hour video that Jackson had--outtakes of the video that showed Jackson in more sympathetic light, and legal experts say that is more convincing, to have this video on and show Jackson in a sympathetic light. And then you--there's no chance for the prosecution to cross-examine him after that, so they went with that strategy.

NORRIS: So Jackson spoke to the jurors, I guess, via video.

KAHN: Via video. You can't cross-examine a video.

NORRIS: Carrie, what happens next?

KAHN: Well, we'll hear the rebuttal witnesses and what they call surrebuttal. No word actually how long that will go. You know, the prosecution brings theirs, and then the defense can cross-examine them again.

But one interesting motion that came up today was the prosecution wants to show a video of the first time the detectives interviewed the boy, the vict--the accuser. And apparently, they want to show that his testimony was consistent with the first time he talked to police. So--and the defense says if they bring the boy back on and show the video, that they want to actually cross-examine the boy again. So the accuser of this could--of Mr. Jackson's could be back on the stand again.

NORRIS: Thank you, Carrie.

KAHN: You're welcome.

NORRIS: NPR's Carrie Kahn, reporting from the Michael Jackson trial in Santa Maria, California.

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