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End To Jackson Trial Saga Nears

Pop star Michael Jackson leaves the Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria, Calif., Thursday June 2, 2005, after closing arguments in his child molestation trial.
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By the end of Friday, the Michael Jackson child molestation case should be in the hands of the jury.

Before that, however, reports CBS News Correspondent Steve Futterman, both sides will have one last chance to argue their cases.

It boils down to a matter of credibility.

"If the jury believes the family, Michael Jackson is going to be convicted, and if they don't then he's going to be acquitted," says CBSNews.com Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen.

The crowd was larger and louder as Jackson arrived at the Santa Maria courthouse Thursday for closing arguments, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales. Prosecutors were booed as they arrived.

But that didn't stop Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen from launching an impassioned, rapid fire attack, implying Jackson was a homosexual and calling him a "predator."

He said at Neverland the accuser and his brother "entered the world of the forbidden, and they learned about human sexuality from someone very willing to be their teacher."

On the other hand, the prosecutors portrayed Jackson as a hard-drinking, porn-collecting pedophile to "dirty up" the pop star because they couldn't prove their case that he molested a child, Jackson's lawyer said in his closing arguments.

Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. was to conclude his argument Friday, followed by a prosecution rebuttal. The case will then go to the jury, which is likely to have a few hours to deliberate before taking off for the weekend.

"Closing arguments is when you can really tell a story and tie it all together," said University of Southern California law professor Jean Rosenbluth. "Zonen did that very well."

Zonen said Jackson lowered the boy's inhibitions by giving him alcohol and showing him pornography before molesting him in the bedroom of the entertainer's Neverland Ranch.

The defense countered that the accuser's family consisted of "con artists, actors and liars," adding that the prosecution showed the weakness of its case by personally attacking Mesereau during closing arguments.

"Whenever a prosecutor does that you know they're in trouble," Mesereau told jurors. "This is not a popularity contest between lawyers."

"This jury seemed to pay equal attention to them both," said CBS News Analyst Trent Copeland. "They were rapt in attention, taking very close notes. It was hard to tell whether any one argument seemed to be better for this jury."

Prosecutors, Mesereau said, also engaged in a "nasty attempt, a barbaric attempt" to attack Jackson personally by bringing up his financial problems, alcohol consumption, collection of adult magazines and "sagging music career."

Jackson, who looked glum 24 hours earlier, said "I'm OK" as he left court Thursday.

But courtroom observer Anne Bremner, a former prosecutor, says there's been a real change in Jackson since the start of the start of the trial, when he looked confident.

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