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Jackson Judge: Booze Ruling Stays

Jurors in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial were to return to court briefly Wednesday to listen to the judge read their instructions.

First, however, attorneys for both sides continued to wrangle over those instructions.

Judge Rodney S. Melville decided Wednesday not to change an instruction that would allow jurors to find Jackson guilty of a misdemeanor count of giving alcohol to a minor.

The allegations that Jackson gave his accuser wine will be under a separate category called "lesser included offenses," which would allow jurors to find Jackson guilty of a misdemeanor of giving liquor to a minor, even if he were acquitted of molestation. That could help head off a hung jury.

"The fact there is a punishment here that's less serious, and shows more sympathy, is an out for the jury," says Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen.

But a source close to the defense tells CBS News they don't want a compromise vote from the jury, they want Jackson totally acquitted, so Wednesday the defense attorneys tried to have the lesser-charge option dropped.

Once the instructions are set, Melville will explain to the jury what reasonable doubt is, what evidence they can consider, the specific charges against Jackson, and what must be proven in order to find Jackson guilty, reports CBS News Correspondent Steve Futterman.

Many of the instructions are complicated, so Melville will give each of the jurors a copy they can follow along as he reads it. That should take about an hour.

The judge said jurors may consider allegations of past wrongdoing against the pop star as long as they conclude the allegations are true.

The decision was one of several reached Tuesday by Melville as he and lawyers in the case tried to work out instructions the jury will receive before beginning deliberations, likely this week. Jackson was not in court.

Melville planned to bring the jurors back into court in the afternoon to give them their instructions. He scheduled closing arguments to begin Thursday, and the jury is expected to get the case Thursday. Opening statements in the trial started on Feb. 28.

A few fans gathered outside Neverland Ranch Tuesday, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales. Some sent flowers to the compound where Jackson waited in seclusion as his attorneys and prosecutors argued over the jury instructions.

Another instruction approved by the judge addressed the importance of the TV documentary "Living With Michael Jackson," in which Jackson's future accuser appeared with Jackson and the pop star said he allowed children to sleep in his bed in an innocent, non-sexual way.

"I'm willing to give ... the instruction, 'The video of Living With Michael Jackson is not offered for the truth of what is said except for certain identified passages,'" the judge said. "'The rest is considered hearsay and you can only consider that it aired and its impact if any on Mr. Jackson.'"

The passages the judge referred to were not specified in open court.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys also debated what the jury should be told about judging Jackson based on the past allegations against him.

Melville said he would tell the jurors they could consider the alleged past acts if they "tend to show intent" on Jackson's part with regard to the crimes with which he is actually charged.

However, the jurors will have to decide whether the allegations of past acts — which never resulted in any criminal charges — were true.

"Evidence has been introduced for the purpose of showing the defendant committed crimes other than those for which he is on trial," the approved instructions read. "This evidence, if believed, may be considered by you only for the limited purpose of deciding if it tends to show a characteristic plan or scheme to commit acts."

Jackson, 46, is charged with molesting the then-13-year-old boy in February or March 2003, giving him wine and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut a damaging documentary about the pop star.

The judge also ruled jurors will be instructed they can consider witnesses' past criminal activities when considering their testimony.

That includes two employees found to have stolen from Jackson, and the accuser's mother, who took the Fifth and refused to answer questions about allegations she committed welfare fraud and perjury, reports Gonzales. Another witness also took the Fifth, accused in a scheme to secretly record Jackson's conversations with his lawyer on a private flight.

That upset District Attorney Tom Sneddon, who was overhead on a courtroom microphone telling a deputy prosecutor, "We just got screwed."

The closing arguments could be important in this case because of the complexity of the stories the witnesses have told, says Cohen.

"Jurors are going to hear more about patterns — patterns of alleged molestation by Jackson and patterns of alleged extortion and manipulation by the alleged victim and his mother. And of course both sides will hammer away at the credibility of the other side's witnesses, Cohen said.

"If the lawyers are smart they will keep their closing arguments relatively short. Jurors appreciate that and anyway they tend to discount most of what lawyers say anyway, even when the lawyers are really articulate. Less is usually more," added Cohen.

The prosecution's closing argument will be delivered by prosecutor Ron Zonen, not District Attorney Thomas Sneddon, who has become something of a lightning rod or the defense.

That will pair him with lead defense attorney Thomas Mesereau, Jr., and former prosecutor Anne Bremner, a courtroom observer, tells CBS News' The Early Show she's looking forward to the match-up.

"They both have charm. They're both very human. They both connect with witnesses. They both connect with the jury. They're measured, they're logical, they're kind of like Atticus Finch-like lawyers," she said, referring to the hero of "To Kill A Mockingbird."

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