End in sight in Michael Jackson sex trial

Michael Jackson’s lawyers are working on their final arguments in the star’s child-sex trial that could go to the jurors within days, after three months of often graphic testimony.

Because Monday is a United States holiday, the trial judge, the prosecutors and the defence team won’t be back in court until Tuesday, when they will discuss the instructions they will give to the jurors.

Now that both sides have rested their case, the rival lawyers could start delivering their closing arguments as early as Wednesday, before handing the case to the 12 men and women who will ultimately decide whether Jackson should spend as many as 20 years behind bars.

Chief prosecutor Tom Sneddon and lead defence lawyer Thomas Mesereau are expected to focus largely on the credibility of the 15-year-old accuser and his younger brother, who were the only ones to testify directly to the alleged sexual abuse.

The defence team has pointed to inconsistencies in the boys’ testimony, and savaged the mother when she took the witness stand, portraying her as a grifter who coached her children to lie under oath in a bid to extort Jackson.

The prosecution for its part depicted Jackson as a sexual predator, with a long history of fondling boys aged eight to 13, who used porn and booze to lure his young victims into sex.

Testimony concluded on Friday after jurors watched a videotaped police interview of the alleged victim, who described in a hushed voice and graphic detail how Jackson allegedly molested him on about five occasions at Neverland ranch, the fantasy-themed California estate the star calls home.

In one of the most devastating moments in the video, the young cancer survivor described how a “very drunk” Jackson allegedly served him alcohol, talked to him about sex and then “started masturbating me”.

Jackson has pleaded innocent to all 10 charges that he fondled the boy two years ago, gave him alcohol and conspired to hold him and his family captive to prevent them from talking of the alleged crimes.

Police started investigating Jackson following the February 2003 airing of a British television documentary in which he expressed a fondness for having children in his bed and was seen holding hands with his future accuser.

The prosecution claims Jackson and his aides feared the film would affect the star’s already fading career and finances, and forced the accuser’s family to deny anything untoward had happened, held them captive and even plotted to whisk them to Brazil.

The defence has ridiculed the claim, pointing out that the family had left and returned to Neverland at the time they were allegedly held against their will, and never called for help.—Sapa-AFP

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