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The Michael Jackson Trial

Jackson judge denies mistrial request

Prosecutors drop demand for grand jury testimony

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Former housekeeper testifies that children at Neverland appeared intoxicated.

Prosecutors focus on seized pornography from Jackson's ranch.

Witness discrepancies in the child molestation trial.
Michael Jackson

SANTA MARIA, California (CNN) -- The judge in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial on Friday denied a defense request to call a mistrial.

The pop star's defense had demanded one, saying jurors should not have been allowed to hear testimony Thursday that the pop star developed special relationships with a dozen young boys who visited his Neverland Ranch.

Defense attorney Robert Sanger accused the prosecution of "deliberately" asking leading questions of Jackson's former housekeeper, Kiki Fournier, in order to get her to list the names of a dozen boys between the age of 10 and 15 whom she says were singled out for special attention. He said a mistrial was the only remedy.

"You can't un-ring the bell," Sanger said.

But Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville denied the motion, saying he didn't believe a mistrial was warranted because the testimony was not "harmful" to the defense.

Jackson and the jurors hearing his child molestation trial were not in court Friday. They had the day off while defense attorneys and prosecutors hashed out motions before Melville.

Among the issues decided Friday:

  • One of the three prosecutors handling the Jackson case, Gordon Auchincloss, agreed to be called as a witness to rebut the defense's contention that key fingerprint evidence in the case was tainted when Jackson's accuser handled material in front of the grand jury. The prosecution had originally wanted the forewoman of the grand jury to testify, but dropped that demand after it opened up the possibility that the entire 20-member panel would be subject to interviews by the defense.
  • Jackson will have to turn over to Melville a statement of his general financial condition, which could be used by the prosecution during the trial. But prosecutors won't get to pore though an extensive array of financial documents in the years leading up to 2003, when he is accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy at Neverland.
  • Melville set March 28 as the date for a hearing on whether evidence of previous molestation allegations against Jackson -- including a 1993 case that resulted in a multimillion civil settlement -- can be introduced into the case. The judge said he will hear arguments from each side before deciding if he wants to hear testimony from witnesses about the earlier incidents.
  • The defense will be allowed to call comedian George Lopez to the stand to talk about a falling out he had with the accuser's family, which the defense says was triggered by the boy and his father claiming $300 went missing from the boy's wallet.
  • In its mistrial motion, the defense contended Thursday's testimony by Fournier, providing the names of the boys she says were singled out by Jackson, was improper because Melville has yet to rule whether testimony about other child molestation allegations will be allowed in the trial.

    Among the boys mentioned were child movie star Macaulay Culkin; the accuser in the current criminal case against Jackson; the accuser's younger brother; and a boy whose family reached a multimillion dollar financial settlement with Jackson in 1993 after alleging molestation.

    The defense repeatedly objected to the testimony Thursday. Melville overruled most of the objections, although he did order the name of the 1993 accuser stricken from the record.

    Sanger argued that the prosecution's questions about the boys' ages and their relationship with Jackson were designed so jurors would "infer" that the relationships were improper.

    But Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon said there was no intention to "elicit" or "infer" that the boys had been molested by Jackson, noting that Fournier did not go into details about the relationships. He said it was a "pretty hard stretch" for the defense to allege deliberate misconduct by the prosecution.

    Melville agreed, noting that the 1993 case had been mentioned previously in the trial.

    "It's not like this is the first or last time this will be heard," he said.

    Debate over fingerprints

    Friday's court debate over fingerprint evidence was prompted by testimony earlier in the week by investigators from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department, who conceded on cross-examination that they had not fingerprinted sexually explicit magazines found at Jackson's Neverland Ranch until after the grand jury indicted him in April 2004.

    Later analysis found fingerprints from Jackson, his accuser and the accuser's brother on the material, which was seized during a search in November 2003.

    The grand jury transcript shows that the boys were asked to review and identify the materials -- and Sanger said Friday that nothing in the record indicates any precautions were taken to prevent contaminating the evidence.

    Prosecutor Ron Zonen insisted that "the children never touched the magazines," and he wanted to call the forewoman of the grand jury to testify that they did not. But Sanger argued that the prosecution should not be allowed to go back and try to correct the record.

    "If it's not in the transcript, that's too bad," he said. "They know how to take a record."

    Sanger also said letting trial jurors hear testimony from grand jurors, who have already decided that there was enough evidence to indict Jackson, would be "very prejudicial." But he told Melville that if the prosecution was allowed to call in the forewoman, the defense should be allowed to call other grand jurors to the stand who might have a different recollection.

    After Melville indicated he might let the defense interview the rest of the grand jurors, prosecutors dropped their request for the forewoman to testify, saying Auchincloss, who was at the grand jury, could testify about how the evidence was handled.

    Judge will keep custody of Jackson records

    Also Friday, Melville refused a defense request to quash a prosecution subpoena for Jackson's financial records, but he limited the information Jackson has to disclose and said he, not prosecutors, would keep custody of it.

    The prosecution wanted an extensive array of Jackson's financial records for the years leading up to 2003, when he is charged with molesting his then-13-year-old accuser at Neverland.

    In a court filing, Sneddon argued the material is needed to prove Jackson was motivated by his financial problems "to do whatever was necessary to preserve his public image" after the airing of a damaging television documentary in 2003, in which he held hands with his accuser.

    The indictment against Jackson alleges that he and five associates were involved in a conspiracy to intimidate and control the accuser and his family, including keeping them against their will at Neverland. The five co-conspirators named in the indictment were not charged.

    Melville, calling the prosecution's subpoena too broad, said he would only require Jackson to turn over a general statement of his financial condition. He also said the court would keep the information, and prosecutors would get access only if they introduce it at trial.

    The judge indicated he was skeptical of the need to introduce the financial evidence. While the information could be evidence of motive, Melville said the time it would take to plow through the records in front of the jury "outweighs the probative value."

    Jackson, 46, was indicted on 10 felony counts for incidents that allegedly occurred in February and March 2003.

    The charges include four counts of committing a lewd act on a child; one count of conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion; one count of attempting to commit a lewd act on a child; and four counts of administering an intoxicating agent to assist in the commission of a felony.

    Jackson has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

    CNN's Dree De Clamecy contributed to this report.

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