Michael Jackson's Past Comes Back To Haunt Him

Michael Jackson’s string of settlements and prior charges will be admitted into evidence at his trial. Up until today it appeared that the defense had the upper hand, refuting or impugning many prosecution witnesses. Now that prosecutors are going to be able to introduce into evidence prior molestation charges (including the 1993 case which Jackson settled for over $20M dollars) the case against the King of Pop seems a lot stronger.

March 28, 2005 (CourtTV/TSG) — In a significant legal setback for Michael Jackson, a judge ruled today that Santa Barbara prosecutors can present jurors with evidence that the performer previously molested five young boys.

Judge Rodney Melville’s bombshell decision came after a two-hour hearing during which Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon outlined several separate “prior bad acts” that investigators sought to present to the 12-member Superior Court jury.
Ruling from the bench after the hearing, Melville told a packed courtroom that he will allow prosecutors to present testimony that Jackson previously molested five boys, including actor Macaulay Culkin and choreographer Wade Robson. That evidence, Melville ruled, is admissible to show a pattern of “grooming” on the entertainer’s part.

…Melville’s decision appears to reflect his belief that admission of the prior incidents, none of which resulted in criminal charges against Jackson, would not serve to unfairly buttress the current case, which centers on allegations that the performer molested a Los Angeles boy, now 15, in early 2003.

The ruling is Melville’s tacit acknowledgment that Sneddon’s current case is not nearly as wobbly as Jackson lawyer Thomas Mesereau claims it to be, and that prosecutors would not improperly benefit from the introduction of “propensity” material allowed under California law. Section 1008 of the state’s Evidence Code (an amendment signed into law in 1996) allows testimony about alleged prior bad acts so long as its usefulness is not outweighed by any potential prejudicial effect on a jury.I think the point in the last paragraph is that where the “prior incidents” material the only damning evidence against Jackson in the current case it would not be admitted.

My impression (though I’m not following the day-to-day testimony) was that the defense was “winning” at this point. It appears that’s (a) not the case, and (b) a media strategy employed successfully by Jackson supporters.

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