April 19, 2005
SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Michael Jackson's defense attorney on Tuesday challenged the authenticity of photographs that appeared to show the mother of the pop star's accuser with severe bruises from an alleged beating by store security guards that led to her family receiving more than $150,000 in a lawsuit settlement.
The incident occurred in 1998 and is unrelated to the molestation case facing Jackson but has arisen as a test of the mother's credibility. Jackson's defense claims his accuser's family has a history of false claims.
Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. attacked the photos, introduced by the prosecution late Monday, by eliciting the woman's acknowledgment that in a deposition for the lawsuit she talked about the fact that bruises do not show up immediately but turn dark over time.
When Mesereau asked her when the purported injury photos were taken, she said they were done immediately.
She said her then-husband took her to have pictures made to document her injuries.
"But didn't you testify that you didn't have these bruises immediately?" asked Mesereau.
She fumbled for words and responded with the statement: "When the defense attorney told us that's the time."
The woman said she had been doing everything at the instruction of a defense attorney after she was arrested for investigation of assault and battery, burglary and petty theft - charges that were eventually dropped.
Mesereau asked if she had not told a woman at a law office that the bruises that were photographed were actually from a beating by her former husband.
"That's incorrect," she said.
The woman acknowledged that although she claimed to have been brutally beaten and sexually touched during the altercation with the store guards, she did not decide to file a lawsuit until a year later.
Mesereau then suggested that was the pattern she was following in the Jackson case.
The mother, who was on the stand over a period of five days, finally concluded her testimony at midmorning. After brief testimony by a detective, the accuser's grandmother was called to testify.
The woman had undergone a tough cross-examination by Mesereau on Monday before prosecutor Ron Zonen startled the courtroom with the photographs and elicited testimony about the alleged beating.
Jurors also saw a picture of Jackson's accuser after the incident. The boy, age 8 at the time of the August 1998 incident, was photographed with his arm in a sling.
The portrayal of the mother as a victim contrasted sharply with the defense effort to paint her as a con artist.
Mesereau had previously confronted the woman with her statements from the store lawsuit in which she denied that her former husband ever abused her. She acknowledged those sworn statements were lies and that her former husband had frequently beaten her and her children.
Earlier, the woman turned to the jury when Mesereau confronted her with a statement she had once made about fearing the family would be made to disappear from Jackson's Neverland ranch in a balloon.
"He's taking it out of context. He's minimizing it. I told police that (Jackson associates) had many ways to make us disappear," the woman said.
"And someone mentioned to you a hot air balloon?" Mesereau asked.
"That was one of the ways," she said.
Jackson is accused of molesting one of the woman's sons - a teenage cancer patient - in February or March 2003, giving the boy alcohol and conspiring to hold the boy's family captive to get them to rebut the "Living With Michael Jackson" documentary in which Jackson said he let children sleep in his bed but it was innocent.
Since taking the stand Wednesday, the woman repeatedly departed from attorneys' questions to criticize Jackson and his associates.
"He really didn't care about children, he cared about what he was doing with children," she said at one point Monday.
In another speech to the jury, she said, "He managed to fool the world. Now, because of this criminal case people know who he really is."
Mesereau also led her through questions and answers involving her relationship with comedian Chris Tucker and his girlfriend Aja.
She denied that the family solicited help, money or any other gifts from Tucker, but acknowledged that Tucker once gave the family a car. She said she never asked it and that Tucker had gotten his girlfriend a new car and no longer needed the old one.
Mesereau pressed her on whether she made any attempts to get help during the family's alleged period of captivity, noting that at one point she was able to call a family friend, comedian Louise Palanker.
"If you could call (Palanker) why couldn't you call police?" Mesereau said.
"I couldn't. I was hoping she could," the woman responded.
Mesereau then asked, "You didn't call 911?"
"I have now," the woman said.