September 17, 2004
SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A day after lawyers argued over whether items taken from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch can be used in his child molestation trial, testimony from his accuser's mother could decide whether a judge will allow prosecutors to present other disputed evidence.
Jackson planned to be in court Friday when the boy's mother was scheduled to testify about whether she knew private investigator Bradley Miller worked for former Jackson lawyer Mark Geragos.
The singer's attorneys are trying to show that the woman and prosecutors should have known Geragos had hired the investigator, and that items taken from Miller's office could not be admitted at the trial because of the attorney-client privilege of confidentiality.
The woman's testimony will be the first time since the case began that she is face to face with the pop star she once trusted to host her children on overnight visits to Neverland. In a grand jury hearing earlier this year she called him "the devil."
Jackson's defense attorneys played video recordings Thursday of the Neverland search, arguing that law enforcement officers overstepped their bounds by taking items not covered in a search warrant as they gathered evidence.
The video included the sounds of carnival music blasting from Neverland's speakers as stone-faced investigators fanned out across the property. They entered a video library that takes up an entire room, and a museum filled with costumed mannequins, one dressed as Marilyn Monroe.
At one point the camera lingered on a picture of "Home Alone" star Macaulay Culkin, the actor who also appeared in the video for Jackson's hit "Black or White."
Defense attorney Robert Sanger questioned Santa Barbara County sheriff's Sgt. Ross Ruth, one of the investigators seen on the recording, about his reasons for entering an office that one ranch employee had identified as Jackson's.
At a previous hearing, witnesses testified that the search warrant for Neverland specified a security office, but made no mention of Jackson's private office. Prosecutors contended that they thought the building housing Jackson's office was also a security building and therefore could be searched.
Ruth testified he did not believe the employee, a woman who wore a maid's uniform, because she had been giving evasive answers.
At one point on the video the woman repeatedly flicked a light switch, but no lights appeared to go on or off. Ruth said he suspected she might be sending a warning or activating cameras, but Judge Rodney S. Melville struck that testimony, saying it was speculative.
Jackson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to child molestation, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol. The trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 31.
Also Thursday, Jackson's attorneys filed a response to media attorney Theodore Boutrous' appeal to unseal many of the records in the case. Boutrous represents news organizations including The Associated Press.
In their response, Jackson's lawyers said it is important to keep the information secret to ensure Jackson receives a fair trial.
"Here the defendant Michael Jackson's liberty is at stake. He is surrounded by wild rumors and salacious allegations. Because he is a celebrity the press and entertainment media hang on every allegation and turn it into a lucrative entertainment venture," according to the motion filed by the defense.