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High Drama At Jackson Hearing

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Michael Jackson was not expected to attend Tuesday's second session of a hearing on whether the prosecutor overstepped legal boundaries in his pursuit of the pop star.

A day earlier, Jackson defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. took the offensive, questioning Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon for two hours over a November 2003 search of the office of a private investigator hired by Jackson's former attorney.

As CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports, Mesereau repeatedly hammered the DA with basically the same question: "It just never dawned on you that Mr. Miller was a private investigator working for Mr. Geragos?"

The exchanges were testy at times. At one point, Sneddon said he didn't know how the defense wanted him to answer a question. "Truthfully, hopefully," Mesereau replied.

When Sneddon said he couldn't give a yes or no answer, Judge Rodney Melville promptly warned him: "Mr. Sneddon, I'm going to ask you not to spar with the attorney."

Mesereau, arguing Sneddon violated Jackson's attorney-client privilege by searching the investigator's office, is seeking to have evidence gathered during that search excluded from his trial on child molestation charges.

One key piece of evidence seized at the investigator's office is a videotape of Jackson's accusers praising him. The tape is key because it may support the conspiracy charge that Jackson tried to silence his alleged victim and the victim's family, including allegedly extorting a videotaped testimonial from them.

If successful, Jackson's legal team's move could undermine the prosecution case. It is one of the issues that must be settled before Jackson's scheduled Jan. 31 trial.

The court action is a rare instance when a preliminary hearing is both important and dramatic, says CBS News Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen — important because if the judge tosses out this evidence the prosecution's case clearly will be weaker, dramatic because the defendant was in court and watching as his nemesis take the stand.

Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola University and a former federal prosecutor, said even if the judge rules in Sneddon's favor, the D.A.'s performance could cost him.

"There were moments when there was tittering throughout the courtroom because he was caught in a statement," she told the CBS News Early Show. "He wasn't a great witness. Even the judge commented on that."

The hearing could affects whether or not Sneddon personally the case.

"One of the things the office might consider is should he be the face man. He had such a hard time being likeable in that courtroom yesterday that they have other lawyers that they could use to actually prosecute the case and he could be calling the shots from behind the scene," Levenson said.

Sneddon refused to acknowledge he even suspected a professional relationship between former Jackson attorney Mark Geragos and the investigator, Bradley Miller — even though the prosecutor acknowledged seeing a large file of letters that carried the names of both men.

The singer, who wore a gold brocade armband over a white suit, sat perfectly still and stared at the prosecutor. The rest of the Jackson family, including five siblings dressed in white, also sat impassively.

Jackson's fans erupted in cheers as the singer and his entourage arrived at court in a tan, double-decker bus with tinted windows, and again when they emerged for lunch.

About 100 mostly young fans pressed against a chain-link fence and hoisted signs saying "Our Love is With You" and "Michael Jackson is Innocent" outside the courthouse. Dozens of police and a small group of people demonstrating in support of sexual abuse victims were also at the court.

Like other Jackson supporters, Olivia Baker, 20, said the singer had been unfairly targeted by Sneddon.

"No human being deserves that, especially since he's given his whole heart to the world," Baker said. "His heart is honest. I don't believe he would ever hurt a child."

Jackson, 45, is charged with committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on $3 million bail.

The week's hearing came amid dueling public relations moves.

Jackson made a surprise visit to Los Angeles' pre-eminent black church Sunday, which legal experts said was an effort to boost his reputation ahead of the showdown with Sneddon.

Prosecutors received their own boost Sunday with the release of a leaked report by the state attorney general that rejected Jackson's charge he was "manhandled" when sheriff's deputies took him into custody last year.

The report to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Anderson casts doubt on Jackson's claim that his shoulder was dislocated when he was handcuffed.

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