Dozens of dancing, hollering fans gathered outside a courthouse Monday (Jan. 31) as Michael Jackson's child molestation case headed to trial.
SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) -- Dozens of dancing, hollering fans gathered outside a courthouse Monday (Jan. 31) as Michael Jackson's child molestation case headed to trial.
Supporters blasted a Jackson song deriding the district attorney and booed a woman who held a sign backing the alleged victim, a 13-year-old boy. Many had camped out overnight.
Hours before jury selection was to begin, Jackson's parents spoke out in his defense, saying the pop star's young accuser was simply after his money.
"I know my son, and this is ridiculous," his mother, Katherine Jackson, said in an interview broadcast on CBS' "The Early Show." She said people who believe her son is guilty "don't know him."
Jackson's father, Joe Jackson, said his son was beloved around the world but had trouble in the United States because of racism. He said the accuser's motives were clear: "It's about money."
Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville summoned 300 people to court for the first round of jury selection Monday. Another 300 are to follow on Tuesday, with a final 150 scheduled to arrive on Wednesday. From that pool, the judge hopes to find 12 jurors and eight alternates, but the process could take a month or more.
Jackson, 46, is charged with molesting a cancer patient -- then age 13, now 15 -- and plying him with alcohol. Early Sunday, Jackson issued a court-approved video statement on his Web site, predicting he would be acquitted.
"Please keep an open mind and let me have my day in court," Jackson said, looking directly into the camera. "I deserve a fair trial like every other American citizen. I will be acquitted and vindicated when the truth is told."
Jackson is opposed by Santa Barbara County district attorney Tom Sneddon, 61, whom Jackson has derided in song as a "cold man" with a vendetta.
A child-molestation case Sneddon tried to build against Jackson 10 years ago fell apart when the singer's accuser reportedly accepted a multimillion-dollar civil settlement and refused to testify in any criminal case.
The challenge facing the court is not to find jurors ignorant of the case but to find those who say they can put aside everything they have heard and look at the evidence as if they had heard nothing.
The referee is Melville, 63, a veteran of the bench who has refused to tolerate tardiness or even, in one case, a bathroom break for the defendant. At the final pretrial hearing Friday, Melville made it clear that he won't abide lawyers attacking each other and that the gag order stands.
Earlier this month, the 1,900-page transcript of the case prosecutors presented to the grand jury that indicted Jackson was leaked to thesmokinggun.com and ABC News.
Among other things, the transcript included the accuser's testimony that Jackson closed his eyes tightly while molesting him on a bed, and that the pop star ignored the child's warnings that he shouldn't drink alcohol because of his medical condition.
More than 1,000 applications for media access have been submitted, some of them from as far away as Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, Canada and Mexico.
Jackson's family members were expected to attend much of the trial, although the judge said he would not permit them in the courtroom when it is packed with prospective jurors.
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