Jackson judge bars erotic computer evidence
Prosecutors show jury other sexually explicit material
SANTA MARIA, California (CNN) -- The judge in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial Wednesday refused to allow prosecutors to introduce as evidence electronic erotic material found on computer hard drives seized at the singer's home.
The ruling, which covers hundreds of erotic images, including images of teenagers, was a victory for the Jackson defense.
Later in the day, prosecutors were dealt another blow as a key witness in their case was jailed on robbery charges in Las Vegas. (Full story)
In ruling on the erotic material, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville agreed with Jackson's attorneys that there was not a strong enough link between the computer material and Jackson to let jurors consider it.
Also Wednesday, an investigator for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department said that no DNA from Jackson's accuser, his younger brother or any other member of his family was found during forensic testing on samples taken from Jackson's Neverland Ranch.
That admission by detective Craig Bonner came during defense cross-examination, after Bonner took jurors through a series of photographs of sexually explicit material seized during a search of Neverland in November 2003.
Jurors saw explicit images from covers and interior pages of magazines, most of which were obscure titles, rather than widely distributed publications. The photographs showed adult heterosexual sex acts, often in graphic detail.
However, Bonner testified all of the material was lawfully purchased, and he said most of the magazines were produced for commercial sale.
Jackson, sitting attentively on a specialized seat with padding to alleviate a back problem, showed no reaction as the photographs were displayed, even though his parents were behind him in the courtroom. Jurors did not seem fazed by the explicit images.
None of Jackson's siblings was with him in court Wednesday, but Majestik Magnificent, a man who describes himself as the pop star's personal magician, was present for the testimony.
At the conclusion of the court day, an ambulance was summoned to the Santa Maria courthouse to assist Jackson attorney Brian Oxman. His medical problem was not immediately known, but he was conscious when he was taken from the building. He was holding a towel over his left arm.
Judge: Unclear whether material on computer was viewed
When court started Wednesday morning, the prosecution planned to put a computer expert on the stand to testify about what he found on the four hard drives seized from Neverland during a November, 2003 search.
But after the defense objected, Melville, outside the presence of the jury, heard arguments about whether to admit the evidence.
Prosecutor Gordon Auchincloss argued the material, found in what he called Jackson's "private sanctuary," was "powerful corroboration for our victim," who testified that Jackson encouraged him to view sexually explicit images on the Internet.
Auchincloss also said the evidence proved that Jackson knew how to use computers and access erotic material on the Internet.
But a skeptical Melville noted that Jackson's accuser and his younger brother testified they were shown sexually explicit Web material by Jackson associate Frank Tyson -- and never testified the pop star was at the keyboard.
The boys did testify that Jackson was in the room, and that Tyson had shown them the material at Jackson's direction when they first visited Neverland in 2000.
The hard drives contained erotic material involving both adults and teenagers, as well as evidence that Web sites containing such material had been visited, Auchincloss said. He also said electronic identification on the computers linked them to Jackson.
Material from adoption agency sites, with pictures of children, also was found, Auchincloss said.
But defense attorney Robert Sanger said much of the erotic material was found in the computer's cache, which temporarily stores images while surfing the Web, showing that no one actually downloaded the images to save them. He also said the images were heterosexual in nature, and many of them were simply topless shots.
Sanger said the probative value of the material would be "extremely weak," and he called the prosecution's attempt to introduce evidence about adoption sites "completely off the wall."
Sanger also said that other people at Neverland, including Jackson's relatives, had access to the computers, and he noted that some of the material the prosecution wants to introduce dates from 1998 -- two years before Jackson's accuser even knew him.
After hearing from both sides, the trial resumed with testimony from sheriff's investigators who searched Neverland.
Later in the afternoon, after sending jurors on an early break, Melville informed the prosecution that the computer evidence was out. Because much of the material was cached, the judge said it would be unclear "if anyone looked at it or not."
Jackson, battling what his representatives say is a nagging back injury, arrived on time for the second day in a row, walking without assistance for the first time this week and joking with his entourage as he entered the building.
As he arrived, Jackson turned around several times to wave at fans outside the Santa Maria courthouse. His parents accompanied him to court.
The 46-year-old singer was indicted last April by a state grand jury on 10 felony counts for incidents that allegedly occurred in February and March 2003.
Jackson is charged with 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 Miguel Marquez and Dree De Clamecy contributed to this report.