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The Michael Jackson Trial

Jackson's legal team shaken up

Judge allows pop star's ex-wife to testify in molestation trial


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Mesereau, left, points his finger in Oxman's face during an exchange outside the courthouse Monday.
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A shakeup occurs on Michael Jackson's legal team.

Prosecutors plan to call Michael Jackson's ex-wife to the stand.
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SANTA MARIA, California (CNN) -- Michael Jackson's legal team is undergoing a shakeup just days before the defense is expected to start presenting its case to jurors in the pop star's trial on child molestation charges.

Brian Oxman is no longer representing Jackson, according to a notice filed Monday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court. The document did not give a reason for Oxman's departure

Oxman, a longtime legal representative for the Jackson family, attended court Monday but did not take his usual seat at the defense table. Instead, he sat in the first row of the gallery, a space usually reserved for the entertainer's family.

After court ended for the day, cameras captured Oxman having an animated conversation with lead defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. outside the Santa Maria courthouse.

Mesereau gestured and pointed his finger at an apparently angry Oxman, but the content of their conversation was not known.

On March 23, Oxman was hauled out of the courtroom on a gurney and hospitalized for pneumonia, stemming from a bout of flu. However, he recovered and returned to the case.

Oxman's departure is the latest in a string of changes in Jackson's defense team since he was arrested in November 2003.

In April 2004, his original lead attorneys, Mark Geragos and Ben Brafman, left the case at Jackson's request, and Mesereau was brought in to replace them. (Full story)

At the time, Geragos was also representing Scott Peterson, who was later sentenced to death for the murders of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son.

Then, in October 2004, Steve Cochran, who had helped defend Jackson against child molestation allegations in 1993, also quit the case for unspecified personal reasons. (Full story)

Testimony to be restricted

Jackson's ex-wife will be allowed to testify about what prosecutors charge was a "highly scripted" television interview she gave in early 2003 defending the pop star as child molestation charges swirled around him, the judge in his trial ruled Monday.

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville refused a request from Jackson's defense to keep Debbie Rowe off the witness stand, although he did say that "I will look for ways to restrict testimony."

Sources said Rowe could testify later this week.

Rowe is the mother of Jackson's two oldest children, Prince Michael, 8, and Paris, 7. She and Jackson were divorced in 1999 after three years of marriage.

They are currently involved in court-supervised negotiations over a new custody agreement that would increase her contact with the children, who live with Jackson.

Jackson has another son, Prince Michael II, 3, who was born to a surrogate mother in 2002.

Prosecutor Ron Zonen said Rowe would testify that the interview, excerpts of which were broadcast on "The Maury Povich Show," was "highly scripted" -- and that she gave it to secure visitation rights with her children.

"It is one more example of how these people used children as a pawn," said Zonen.

Prosecutors want to use Rowe to bolster the testimony of the mother of Jackson's accuser, who said she participated in a scripted interview in February 2003, when she feared being separated from her children.

Both interviews took place around the same time, as Jackson's camp was trying to stem the public relations damage from a television documentary in which he was shown holding hands with his accuser, then 13.

Arguing against Rowe's testimony, Jackson attorney Robert Sanger said the defense would prove that no scripts were used in either interview, only "questions written out in advance" by the interviewer, which he said was an accepted practice.

A grand jury indicted Jackson, 46, last year on charges of molesting the boy, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold him and his family captive in 2003. Jackson has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Another former guard testifies

Later Monday, former Jackson security guard Kassim Abdool testified that in 1993 he saw the singer enter a restroom at Jackson's Neverland Ranch with a boy, with both of them wearing swimming trunks after a trip to a whirlpool bath.

A half-hour later, Abdool said, he saw Jackson, clad only in a towel, giving a piggy back ride to the boy, who was wearing a robe, and then heard two doors lock when they entered the main house.

Abdool, who said locking the door was not standard practice, told jurors he later went into the restroom and found two pairs of swimming trunks -- together, on the floor.

Under cross-examination, Abdool said that even after witnessing the incident with the boy, he still brought his own children, age 9 and 13, to an employee event at the ranch.

Earlier in the trial, another security guard, Ralph Chacon, testified about the same alleged incident. Chacon said he saw sexual contact between Jackson and the boy, the 13. (More from that testimony)

Abdool said he did not see the alleged interlude Chacon described. Under cross-examination, he admitted he signed a statement in 1994 saying he never witnessed any improper sexual conduct by Jackson.

The family of the boy filed a civil suit against Jackson, alleging molestation, that resulted in a multimillion-dollar settlement in which Jackson did not admit guilt.

Abdool also said that after he was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury investigating what allegedly happened between the boy and Jackson in 1993, he was given a $1,000-a-month raise.

He said he also received numerous phone calls that "threatened to kill me and my family," which frightened him so much he asked to be put in the witness protection program.

Abdool was part of an unsuccessful wrongful termination suit against Jackson brought in late 1994 by five former employees. Jackson countersued, and a jury found in his favor, ordering the employees to pay $1.4 million in legal fees.

Under cross-examination, Abdool said he had not paid any of that judgment. He also admitted he had accepted money for tabloid interviews about Jackson and had filed a state disability claim that he had been emotionally disabled by his experiences at Neverland.

Travel aide to testify

In other developments Monday, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas Sneddon announced that the prosecution has decided not to call as a witness Chris Carter, a former Jackson bodyguard facing armed robbery and bank robbery charges in Nevada.

The prosecution also announced that it had reached a deal to give immunity to Cynthia Montgomery, Jackson's former travel coordinator, clearing the way for her to testify.

CNN's Ted Rowlands and Dree De Clamecy contributed to this report.


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