Jackson's lawyers wrap up their case

Comedian Chris Tucker and United States talk-show host Jay Leno are scheduled to take the stand for Michael Jackson this week as the defence wraps up its case in the entertainer’s child-sex trial.

Jackson’s lawyers believe testimony from the two celebrities will support their argument that the family of their client’s 15-year-old accuser was out to bilk celebrities, including the “King of Pop” himself.

The two are expected to be among the last witnesses to appear for the prosecution, which appears set to conclude its case by mid-week, three weeks after the prosecution rested.

Once the lawyers rest their case, the prosecution will get a chance for rebuttal and the defence can then put on witnesses again for counter-rebuttal.

Both sides have indicated they intend to limit themselves to a few days, according to sources close to the Santa Maria, California, court. The rival lawyers will then present their final arguments before handing the case to the 12 jurors.

Ironically, Leno, who is due to appear on Tuesday, has spent the past few months spoofing the eccentric entertainer on his Tonight Show.

Leno is expected to tell the court the accuser, a cancer survivor, and his mother had called him in 2002, one year before the alleged molestation.

“It all sounded very rehearsed to me,” Leno said, according to a purported interview the TV celebrity gave to police and which was leaked to the media.

“It just sounded coached,” he said, adding that the boy seemed to be “sort of looking for money”.

The boy, who claims Jackson sexually molested him two years ago, denied at the trial that he ever spoke to Leno directly.

The defence has called the boy a liar and pointed to inconsistencies in his statements about the alleged molestation.

Tucker, who featured in the Rush Hour movie, had met the alleged victim at a camp where he coached children in the art of stand-up comedy. He supported the alleged victim during his hospitalisation for cancer, and was present at key moments during the alleged events.

On Thursday, Tucker’s former fiancée, Azja Pryor, told jurors at the Santa Maria, California court that the accuser’s mother had never complained to her that Jackson had molested her son, and had instead heaped praise on the singer.

Court-watchers say the defence scored major points in the past week, when two teenage cousins of Jackson recalled how the alleged victim and his younger brother ran amok at the entertainer’s Neverland ranch, drinking wine, watching porn and masturbating when the pop star was not around.

But the Jackson camp suffered a setback when trial Judge Rodney Melville ruled that TV talk show star Larry King could not tell jurors of a conversation in which a lawyer for the accuser’s mother said he thought in 2003 the woman was out to bilk Jackson.

Witnesses also punched holes in the prosecution’s claim that Jackson and his aides held the family captive to prevent them from talking about the alleged molestation.

Jackson, who could face up to 20 years behind bars if convicted, has insisted he is innocent of all 10 charges against him.—Sapa-AFP

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