Closing Arguments Begin in Jackson Trial

Closing arguments begin in the Michael Jackson trial with prosecution claims that the defense failed to undermine the credibility of Jackson's young accuser.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

After nearly 14 weeks of testimony, the trial of Michael Jackson on child molestation charges is coming to an end. Closing arguments started this morning, and by tomorrow the case could be in the hands of the jury. The court is now in recess for the day. NPR's Luke Burbank has been in the courtroom and joins us from Santa Maria, California.

Luke, the prosecution goes first. What did the jury hear from the prosecutors today?

LUKE BURBANK reporting:

Well, Ron Zonen wanted to make a few points early. First was that Michael Jackson is, in fact, a sexual predator, that his alleged behavior was part of a pattern that he, for years, has found young boys who come from broken homes, don't have father figures, and kind of used their tumultuous family life to kind of single them out and then make them victims. They also showed pictures of magazines that had been found and books that had been found in Michael Jackson's personal bathroom and near his bed that had pictures of naked young boys in it.

They also spent a lot of time trying to kind of support the credibility of the accuser's mother. Her dealings with other celebrities has been a kind of a point of contention in the case as to whether or not she's a shakedown artist. The prosecution was very adamant that she's not a shakedown artist, that she was a good mother and that she never specifically asked for any money.

And then they spent a lot of time talking about Jackson's attorney, Tom Mesereau, saying that Tom Mesereau had made a contract with the jury at the beginning of the case that he would bring forth evidence and witnesses that would exonerate his client. They said Tom Mesereau never brought those witnesses.

BLOCK: Well, how did Tom Mesereau, the defense attorney, respond to that his closing argument, which began today?

BURBANK: Well, he started by saying, `Look, if the prosecution is focusing on my lawyering skills, that's evidence that they don't have much of a case.' He also conceded, yeah, the mother didn't ask for money; that wasn't her MO. What she did was told a sob story, and then when it was time to get the money, she would actually have her kids ask for it. So he said the prosecution was kind of missing the point on that one.

And then he went back to what he's been saying the entire trial, which is that this is a family of grifters; they have a history of this kind of behavior, the children were coached into lying about what they say happened, and that you just can't believe the family. He also said to the jury, `Your job is not to decide if Michael Jackson is necessarily innocent, but if there's reasonable doubt that he committed these crimes.'

BLOCK: Luke, we said you've been in the courtroom. Describe the scene inside for us, please.

BURBANK: Well, it's a weird scene, actually, Melissa, because on one hand you have somebody who's facing potentially 18 years in prison, but there's also a certain giddiness in the courtroom because so many of the people watching the case are fans who have won a sort of lottery drawing that happens every morning to get into the courtroom.

Michael Jackson looked pretty haggard today. He didn't look anyone in the eye, not even his lawyers. As he would sort of come and go from the courtroom, he would be staring off into space. A lot of his fans who have been there a lot have taken to just trying to entertain themselves. They take very copious notes about the case, and they also have this game they play where they pass around a notebook and you have to try to guess what vest Michael Jackson will be wearing, what his lawyers' tie color will be and what his mother's jacket color will be. If you get all three, you win the contest. And by the way, today Jackson was wearing plaid.

BLOCK: NPR's Luke Burbank at the Michael Jackson trial in Santa Maria, California.

Luke, thanks very much.

BURBANK: Sure, Melissa.

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