Lesser Charges For Jackson?

Michael Jackson stayed home Tuesday while lawyers and the judge in his child molestation trial tried to work out the instructions the jury will receive before beginning deliberations, possibly this week. One piece of the judge's instructions that was seen Tuesday as a boost to Jackson's defense might be unwanted, CBS News.com has learned.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys argued over how jurors should weigh the credibility of a witness and also debated what the jury should be told about judging Jackson based on the past allegations against him.

Judge Rodney S. 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.

The alcohol allegations against Jackson 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.

The original indictment against Jackson alleged that alcohol was administered to assist in the alleged molestation.

"Lesser included charges are like a poker game. You don't know what they really mean until the hand plays out and you see the cards on the table. But because they tend to push jurors toward a compromise they typically reduce the chances of a hung jury," said CBS News Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen.

But CBS News.com has learned from a source close to the defense that Jackson's team doesn't want a compromise vote from the jury. Because they want Jackson totally acquitted, the defense is expected to argue Wednesday to have the lesser alcohol clause removed.

"If jurors are leaning toward a prosecution verdict, then the lesser included charge would help Jackson because it would give jurors an option that doesn't include a felony conviction. And if jurors are leaning toward the defense, the lesser included charge helps prosecutors by giving them another chance to get some sort of a conviction," said Cohen.

Melville also agreed to tell the jurors that they are entitled to reject the testimony of a witness who is willfully false in any material fact, but are not required to do so if they feel the witness is truthful in other regards.

"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."

Both sides rested their cases Friday. Closing arguments could begin as early as Wednesday, and jurors could get the case before the week is out.

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.