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The Michael Jackson Trial

Jackson prosecution nearing end

Judge to decide whether ex-bodyguard will testify


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The accuser's mother has been shaky in cross-examination.
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SANTA MARIA, California (CNN) -- Prosecutors expect to conclude their case against pop star Michael Jackson by the end of next week, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon said Tuesday.

But the prosecution may be forced to do without the testimony of a key witness, former Jackson bodyguard Chris Carter, who is facing armed robbery and bank robbery charges in Las Vegas, Nevada.

His lawyer said Tuesday that Carter would refuse testify even if prosecutors persuade Santa Monica County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville to shield him from answering questions about his legal woes.

So far, jurors have heard nine weeks of testimony about the pop star's interactions with his teenage accuser and the boy's family.

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

The mother of the accuser finished her testimony Tuesday after spending five days on the stand, but she didn't get away before defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. launched one final assault on her credibility.

Mesereau challenged her account of a 1998 altercation with J.C. Penney department store security guards in which she says she and her family were badly beaten and led to a $152,000 civil settlement in 2000.

In a deposition she gave for the lawsuit, the mother said she was "smashed like a cockroach," severely beaten by guards, including a male guard.

She and her husband were arrested, and her parents came to the store to pick up their children, who were also injured in the melee. One son -- the accuser in the Jackson case -- suffered a broken elbow.

Mesereau produced a photograph of her face taken shortly after the incident that showed that while she had red marks, there were no bruises.

She said the bruises developed later and that she had been wearing makeup when the photo was taken.

Mesereau then moved to pictures introduced Monday by the prosecution, which did show deep bruising on her face and body.

She said those photos were taken later, at the suggestion of the defense attorney representing her on the criminal charges, which were eventually dropped.

Questioned about the photos, she first said her husband had taken her to a one-hour photo studio "immediately" after the incident.

When Mesereau pointed out that she did not have bruises at that point, she corrected the time frame to say the photos were taken after they talked with the attorney.

The altercation began when one of her sons was accused of shoplifting items from the store.

The mother said she was in another store in the same shopping center when she saw her husband being beaten by two guards and tried to intervene.

Mesereau pressed the woman about a statement she made to police after the altercation in which she said her husband, whom she later divorced, abused her throughout their marriage.

"Finally, I said something," she said.

In her deposition, however, the woman denied her husband had abused her, and she said she was late to a job appointment because she was kissing her husband outside in the car.

Asked by Mesereau about that seeming contradiction, the woman explained the kissing by saying she was excited about her new job, and "he was my husband."

Actions questioned

Mesereau also tried to bolster the defense's contention that the mother used her son's bout with cancer to solicit money for her personal benefit, asking her if she had paid for plastic surgery out of funds raised for the boy.

"I used a credit card [for the surgery] ... which is still outstanding," she said.

The mother admitted that in fall 2001, after the family had received money because of her son's illness, she talked to "a nice man" at a Los Angeles car dealership about buying a car. But she said she never went through with the purchase.

She also said she never discussed with comedian Louise Palanker the $20,000 she had given the family, a gift she said was arranged by her husband. She did admit that at his request she endorsed one of Palanker's checks.

On the stand Monday, the mother had said she did not know how the money from Palanker had been used.

But Tuesday, after an overnight conversation with prosecutor Ron Zonen, she said she remembered the money was used to construct a special sterile room at her parents' home, where her son stayed while recovering from chemotherapy.

The mother also denied she had ever asked her son to call NBC "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno, or any other celebrity, to solicit financial help.

Mesereau has said previously that Leno contacted police after receiving a phone call from the family that he found suspicious. He has been subpoenaed as a defense witness.

Ex-bodyguard refuses to testify

The prosecution and defense sparred over the testimony of Jackson's bodyguard Chris Carter.

The prosecution wants Carter to be able to provide limited testimony, which would allow him to recount events involving Jackson and his accuser without being questioned about the criminal charges in Nevada.

The defense objects, insisting that Carter's legal woes should be fair game for cross-examination.

Melville said he would rule on the scope of Carter's testimony after considering motions from the defense, prosecution and Carter's lawyer.

Carter's attorney, Lloyd Baker, said he would not cooperate, even if Melville limits questioning.

Carter was transported earlier this month from Nevada to California to appear at the Jackson trial and remains in jail in lieu of $250,000 bond.

Carter's testimony is important to the prosecution, which expects him to offer independent corroboration of the accuser's testimony that Jackson gave the boy alcohol, as the indictment against Jackson alleges.

So far in the trial, the only witnesses to corroborate the charges of drinking have been the accuser's brother and sister.

In his testimony to the grand jury that indicted Jackson, Carter said he saw both Jackson and his accuser drinking alcohol from soda cans while on a flight from Miami to California in February 2003.

He also said he saw the boy "stumbling" drunk one afternoon at Jackson's Neverland Ranch, and the boy indicated to him that Jackson condoned his drinking.

It is CNN's policy not to reveal the names of the underage accuser or members of his family.

Jackson waved at fans who greeted him Tuesday outside the Santa Maria courthouse. He wore a black jacket over a gold vest and white shirt, with a black tie and a patterned gold armband.

His sporadic problems with promptness returned when he and his mother, Katherine, returned late from an afternoon court break, after the jury had already been seated. Jackson was let into the courtroom, but his mother was forced to wait outside until the next break.

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


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