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The Michael Jackson Trial

Ex-wife set to testify in Jackson trial

Prosecution will call Rowe to stand over 'highly scripted' video

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Debbie Rowe is expected to testify Wednesday.
Michael Jackson
Debbie Rowe

SANTA MARIA, California (CNN) -- She was an unknown nurse who came out of the blue to marry a world-famous enigma and give him two children, all while under the unyielding glare of the media's spotlight.

Soon the tangled personal saga of Debbie Rowe and Michael Jackson will unfold in a California courtroom, when she takes the stand Wednesday to testify for the prosecution in her ex-husband's child molestation trial.

Although she won't be legally bound by a confidentiality agreement she signed when they divorced, Rowe's testimony is unlikely to delve into details of her relationship with Jackson, or their three-year marriage.

Instead, the prosecution is calling her as a witness to testify about an interview she gave in early 2003, in which she defended Jackson even as child molestation charges began to swirl around him.

Over defense objections, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville decided Monday that Rowe could testify. However, the judge indicated that he would restrict her testimony to issues surrounding the interview -- and not allow it to wander into juicier aspects of their relationship.

Prosecutors say Rowe will tell jurors that she made the "highly scripted" video because she was promised that if she did, she would be allowed to have more time with the two children she had with Jackson -- Prince Michael, 8, and Paris, 7.

"It is one more example of how these people used children as a pawn," said prosecutor Ron Zonen, who added that "it was Mr. Jackson who made the initial phone call and brought her into this."

Prosecutors want to use Rowe to bolster the testimony of the mother of Jackson's teenage 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 the teenage boy, then 13, who is now accusing him of child molestation.

A grand jury indicted Jackson, 46, last year on charges of molesting his now-15-year-old accuser, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold him and his family captive in 2003. Jackson has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Jackson attorney Robert Sanger said Monday 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.

He also said footage of the interview, excerpts of which were televised on "The Maury Povich Show," shows that Rowe's comments were "spontaneous" and not scripted.

Jackson and Rowe, who met when she worked as a nurse for his dermatologist, married in 1996 in Australia, about three months before she gave birth to Prince Michael. Less than 14 months later, she gave birth to Paris.

After their divorce in 1999, Rowe allowed Jackson to have custody of their children.

According to court documents, she also signed a confidentiality agreement barring her from discussing "paternity, Michael's mental or physical condition, purported drug use, sexual behavior" or the lifestyle of her children. In return, she received a multimillion-dollar settlement.

In 2001, Rowe gave up her parental rights to Prince Michael and Paris. At the time, she said Jackson was a "brilliant father" and it was in the children's "best interest" to be with him.

But last year, after Jackson was charged with child molestation, Rowe apparently had a change of heart, initiating legal proceedings to gain more contact with her children.

In court Monday, Zonen disclosed that she had "misgivings" about giving up her parental rights and has since had them restored.

Rowe and Jackson are currently involved in negotiations over a new custody agreement that would increase her contact with the children, with a retired judge overseeing the discussions.

Last year, Jackson also stopped his financial payments to Rowe, saying she had broken the confidentiality agreement by appearing on the syndicated TV show "Entertainment Tonight."

Jackson has another son, 3-year-old Prince Michael II, who was born to an unidentified surrogate mother in 2002.

When the boy, also known as Blanket, was an infant, Jackson was captured on video dangling him from a hotel balcony in Berlin, Germany, an incident that made headlines worldwide.

Rowe has strongly denied media speculation that she is also Blanket's mother.

Jackson was previously married to Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of rock legend Elvis Presley. They wed in 1994 and divorced 19 months later.

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