May 20, 2005
SANTA MARIA, Calif. - In a victory for Michael Jackson's defense, jurors in his child molestation case were allowed to see a video tour of the singer's Neverland ranch that a prosecutor condemned as propaganda.
Jurors on Thursday saw idyllic scenes of amusement park rides, cheerful workers, zoo animals, blooming flowers and statues of boys and girls at play.
The video also showed numerous clocks, apparently countering testimony by family members of Jackson's accuser that they were unable to keep track of time while allegedly being held captive at the ranch.
Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville permitted the viewing over the vehement opposition of District Attorney Tom Sneddon.
Sneddon said the tape, made this year, showed a ranch that was somewhat different from its state on February and March 2003, when the accuser's family allegedly was held captive.
Sneddon, calling the video "propaganda," argued that it was designed to make Jackson look good, and cited a scene of a chalkboard containing a note by one of Jackson's children that said "I love you daddy."
Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a boy and plying him with wine. He also is accused of conspiring to hold the boy's family captive. Prosecutors said he wanted them to rebut a TV documentary in which Jackson said he let children sleep in his bed, although he contended it was non-sexual.
On Friday, former Jackson attorney Mark Geragos was expected to return to the stand. Geragos testified last week that he once ordered surveillance of the accuser's family because he believed they were plotting to extort money from Jackson.
In other testimony Thursday, a witness said the accuser's mother told her the family was being kept away from Jackson during a time when prosecutors claim molestation took place.
Azja Pryor, a Hollywood casting assistant and girlfriend of movie star Chris Tucker, said the woman complained in March 2003 about two Jackson associates who were rude to her.
"I asked, 'Does Michael know anything about this?' She said, 'They won't let us around him because they know the children tug at his heart strings,'" Pryor testified.
The time period Pryor cited is significant because prosecutors allege Jackson molested the then-13-year-old boy between Feb. 20 and March 12, 2003.
Pryor testified that she and the boy's mother talked for hours on the phone and the woman never complained to her about Jackson.
Pryor said she and Tucker met the family at a Hollywood comedy club in 2001. At the time, the accuser was battling cancer and the club owner and comedians were raising money for his family.
The defense contends that the accuser's mother tried to bilk celebrities by exploiting her son's cancer fight.
Pryor said she gave the family money and that the accuser's mother and sister tried to pressure her to give them a car.