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Motion To Acquit Jackson Denied

Michael Jackson,center, arrives for court with his father Joe Jackson, left, at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse in Santa Maria, California, Thursday, May 5, 2005. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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The judge at the Michael Jackson child molestation trial rejected a defense motion to acquit the pop singer.

The Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville's made the ruling after hearing lengthy arguments from defense lawyers who argued that prosecutors hadn't made their case. In fact, they said prosecution witnesses had in some cases testified in just the opposite way from what was promised.

The judge then called in the jury to start hearing the defense case.

The defense motion, filed immediately after the prosecution rested, asked that Jackson be acquitted on grounds that prosecutors hadn't proven the child molestation and conspiracy case.

The defense request for acquittal focused mostly on the conspiracy charge, seizing on two recent elements of the prosecution's case: a display of calls from Jackson associates' phones that could not be linked to Jackson directly, and testimony from Rowe that he was the victim of "opportunistic vultures" in his inner circle.

"The prosecution's phone records evidence, if anything, proved the lack of substantial evidence tying Mr. Jackson to the alleged conspiracy," the motion said. "Debbie Rowe's testimony demonstrated that the people around Mr. Jackson were, if anything, conspiring against him."

Defense attorneys typically file such motions when the prosecution rests, and they rarely succeed.

Earlier Thursday, attorneys had argued over whether some documents used in the prosecution case had been sufficiently authenticated to be admitted into evidence.

The discussion followed District Attorney Tom Sneddon's announcement Wednesday that the prosecution was resting its case, pending Melville's decisions on admitting various items.

The debate focused on 22 documents or other items, including an address book, legal agreements, e-mails, financial records, and a copy of a $1 million check cashed by a Jackson associate, Marc Schaffel, who is in a group of men named by prosecutors as unindicted co-conspirators in the case.

The judge said Wednesday that the prosecution might be allowed to reopen its case depending on his decisions on whether to formally admit various items into evidence.

The prosecution's case included an often-mesmerizing cast of more than 80 witnesses, but also long days of dry testimony about phone records, how a Nov. 18, 2003 search of Jackson's Neverland ranch was conducted, and how fingerprints are taken.

Some of the prosecution's own witnesses wound up benefiting the defense, including Jackson's ex-wife Deborah Rowe, who cast him as a victim and praised his parenting skills.

says he is not impressed with the prosecution's case against the pop star.

"The case against Jackson so far has been supported by the motliest collection of witnesses I have ever seen assembled in one case," says Cohen. "Like characters from a Damon Runyon story, many of them have stepped out from hiding places and shadows, with dark backgrounds and shady motives, to bear witness against the 'King of Pop.'

"Jackson may be a freak but the people Sneddon has relied upon to put him in prison aren't exactly Pat Boone, either."

Prosecutors set out to prove that in 2003 Jackson fondled a 13-year-old cancer survivor, plied him with alcohol, and arranged to detain him and his family so they would rebut a damaging documentary about the singer.

"Living With Michael Jackson" pictured the boy side-by-side with Jackson, who said he let children sleep in his bed but dismissed the notion that the practice had any sexual meaning.

Jackson was accused of molesting the boy at least 14 days after the program aired in the United States, as he and associates allegedly panicked over its implications.

Jackson remained the trial's star. Even his absence, twice caused by ailments, created a scene — and once required him to rush to court in pajamas, under threat of arrest by the judge. After that Jackson was on time and calmly listened to testimony in a rainbow of suits with brocade vests and matching armbands.

The prosecution, says Cohen, "put on a memorably weak case, one that ought to raise serious questions about prosecutorial strategies, tactics and even ethics if Jackson wins."

"In spite of all this, prosecutors still may win," says Cohen. "Plenty of weak cases end in convictions for a variety of reasons.

"If prosecutors do win, however, it won't be because they overwhelmed jurors with proof or because they were smarter or better than the defense or (especially) because their witnesses were nice and noble and credible."

A win for the prosecution, says Cohen, would more likely be "because jurors have concluded that where there is smoke there must be fire; that no innocent man would have so many of the same sorts of serious allegations tossed his way."

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    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.