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Last Updated: Friday, 1 April, 2005, 08:35 GMT 09:35 UK
Reporter's log: Michael Jackson trial
Pop star Michael Jackson is standing trial for child abuse in the Californian town of Santa Maria. The BBC's Peter Bowes is there and will be reporting throughout the proceedings.

Thursday March 31: 1830 local time (0330 BST Friday)

The court was dark today - the state holiday coming as a welcome break from the punishing schedule imposed by Judge Melville.

It was becoming apparent that everyone associated with this trial needed to get away for a while.

Never mind the owner of LA's Laugh Factory testifying earlier this week - the entire courtroom was beginning to feel like a comedy club.

Cynthia Ann Bell
Flight attendant Cynthia Ann Bell had the courtroom laughing
Cynthia Ann Bell, a flight attendant who worked on a private jet used by Michael Jackson, was the source of much of the hilarity.

She had everyone guffawing when she offered to demonstrate to one of the prosecutors the meaning of the word "cuddle".

She told the court she never saw Mr Jackson cuddle his accuser, but did see him put his arm around the teenager.

"How do you describe a cuddle?" asked Gordon Auchincloss.
"I can show you," responded Ms Bell.
"Permission to approach the witness, your honour," came the quick response from the lawyer.

The twitchy Ms Bell caused a few more belly laughs when she appeared to fall off her chair on the witness stand.

I have heard a few onlookers grumble that the atmosphere has been getting too frivolous.

But Judge Melville has made it clear he is OK with a little laughter in his courtroom. In fact, at times, he appears to be itching to get in a quip himself.

After a particularly tedious session involving Michael Jackson's lawyer questioning another lawyer, Judge Melville noted: "I'm thinking that between the comedians and the lawyers, I like the comedians best."

Tuesday March 29: 1158 local time (2058 BST)

Today's newspaper headlines did not make pleasant reading for Michael Jackson.

The tone varied according to the publication, but the message was the same: Jacko's Past Goes On Trial, Judge Allows Other Jackson Abuse Claims and Inside Jacko's Closet. But it is far from "game over" for the singer.

It is premature to describe the ruling as a mortal blow for Michael Jackson - even though that has been the tone of most reports. Closer analysis of the Jackson Five - the five boys the prosecution believe were in some way abused by the singer - suggests their credibility may be a problem.

We understand that only one of them is prepared to come to the court as a prosecution witness and tell the jurors his story. Macaulay Culkin, one of the five, may appear for the defence. The actor, now 24, has always maintained that nothing inappropriate happened between himself and the pop star.

Most of the jurors look like the kind people who probably enjoyed the former child star's performance in Home Alone - and on the evidence of the last few days, they tend to perk up a bit when there's a celebrity on the witness stand.

The comedian George Lopez was here on Monday. A convincing courtroom performance by Culkin may help persuade the jury that Michael Jackson is nothing more than a kid at heart himself.

Friday March 25: 1735 local time (0135 GMT Saturday)

"I can't take anymore," joked Judge Melville.

His outburst came at the end of a second day of sometimes mind-numbing testimony about forensic work.

We heard about whorls and ridges and the intricacies of fingerprint technology. One expert explained that fingerprints develop during the second trimester but it was a point of detail that seemed to drift over the heads of most of the jurors.

The Jackson 12 - and 8 alternates - were noticeably fidgety for much of the day. One appeared to nod off.

The judge sent everyone home 15 minutes early. We will return for what could be the most significant day of the trial so far, on Easter Monday.

The judge will hear arguments and rule on whether prior allegations of sex abuse against Michael Jackson can be introduced into this trial.

Wednesday March 23: 2214 local time (0614 GMT Thursday)

A day in the life of the Michael Jackson trial does not seem to be complete these days without a bulletin from the local hospital. Tonight's reads: "Mr Brian Oxman is being admitted overnight for observation for a right lung pneumonia. He is in stable condition and resting comfortably."

Brian Oxman
Lawyer Brian Oxman was taken to hospital from the courthouse

The Jackson family lawyer took ill at the end of the court day and had to be stretchered away by paramedics. Yesterday, a Michael Jackson fan left the courthouse in a similar fashion while on Monday a doctor wearing surgical scrubs accompanied the defendant into court.

As one of my colleagues noted, "You just can't write this stuff."

I wish Mr Oxman well. He is a friend of the media and a loyal supporter of Michael Jackson.

A British judge interrupted his holiday in California today to pay a visit to the trial. Judge Dennis Levy, QC sat through the eye-popping sessions in which Michael Jackson's pornography collection was displayed for the jury.

At the end he concluded that it was just like a "normal" trial. Hmm.

Monday 21 March: 1535 local time (2335 GMT)

Another day, another delay. For 50 surreal minutes this morning we sat on the edges our courtroom seats agog at the latest bizarre sequence of events.

Michael Jackson
Mr Jackson hobbled into the courthouse
0826: Four minutes to go and Michael Jackson is not in court. The singer's lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, has an intense conversation with the courtroom bailiff. Something is clearly very wrong. We have been here before. Surely, not another hospital drama?

0829: An anxious-looking Mesereau glances at his watch.

0832: Mesereau takes the prosecutor, Santa Barbara District Attorney, Tom Sneddon, to one side. They exchange a few words.

0835: Michael Jackson arrives in court looking painfully ill and unsteady on his feet. Supported by his bodyguard the ailing pop star shuffles into the room. He walks within a few inches of my seat.

It is like watching a rusty old robot - stilted and creaky - slowly trying to navigate the few yards to the lawyers' table. Once seated he grabs a handful of tissues and holds them to his face.

0839: Mr Jackson signals to his aides that he wants to leave the courtroom. Now, supported by a doctor wearing scrubs, the singer gingerly makes his way to the exit door.

0840: The doctor is called into the judge's chambers along with the lawyers. Fans at the rear of the courtroom are sobbing.

0847: The doctor returns and speaks to Jackson's parents who are seated in the their usual positions near the front of the public gallery. His mum looks worried. We overhear that the doctor has been "excused" and needs a ride home.

0850: The prosecution lawyers huddle in deep discussion. Mr Mesereau has another conversation with the bailiff and then leaves the courtroom.

0902: Back in the courtroom, Mr Mesereau whispers something to Joe Jackson - Michael's dad.

0903: The bailiff says Mr Jackson is returning to the courtroom.

0912: Walking slightly faster, Mr Jackson finally comes back and takes his seat. We understand that he has been in a private bathroom in the courthouse.

0913: The jury is brought in. They have seen none of this drama unfold.

0915: Judge Melville takes to the bench and makes no mention of what has gone on. The trial resumes.

At the end of the day, Mr Jackson left court saying that he was "on medication by way of the doctor". He and the family lawyer, Brian Oxman, refused to answer further questions.

Oxman said it had been decided that there would be "no statement." We remain in the dark about what happened in the early hours - but it is fair to say that around this courthouse there is a considerable amount of concern being expressed for the physical and mental well-being of Michael Jackson.

Friday 18 March: 1740 local time (0140 GMT Saturday)

Judge Melville has set a date for a hearing that could make or break this case.

Michael Jackson's fans
Michael Jackson's fans continue their daily vigil outside the court
On Monday 28 March, without the jury in court, he will hear arguments from the lawyers on whether or not past allegations of child sexual abuse can be introduced in the current trial.

There are understood to be several instances since 1993 when Michael Jackson faced such allegations - although none has ever ended up in court.

Under California law, evidence of alleged "past acts" is admissible, although the judge has the final word.

Legal pundits are suggesting that such a move would be "devastating" and may signal "game over" for Michael Jackson.

The prosecution would seek to demonstrate a pattern of behaviour by the singer that is typical of a child predator.

So 28 March will be a hugely important day. The parade of Hollywood stars that may appear as witnesses later in the trial could be relegated to walk-on roles in a defence side-show.

Wednesday 16 March: 13:38 local time (2138 GMT)

Even on relatively slow days - like today - there is a sense of theatre in the courtroom.

In the half-hour before the proceedings get under way the words "check check" can be heard booming from the overhead speakers as the staff test the problematic sound system.

Michael Jackson
The singer sometimes does stretching exercises in court
The lawyers usually roll in at around 0810 each pulling a luggage trolley piled high with brief cases and boxes stuffed with legal papers.

They set up their laptops and prepare for the day.

At about this time the bailiff hits a button and a large projection screen descends from the ceiling at the front of the courtroom.

Someone else sits in the judge's seat to make sure that his panel of technical gizmos is in working order.

The judge flicks the button whenever the lawyers want to display images from their PCs on the big screen.

Michael Jackson usually arrives between 0820 and 0828. Reporters strain their necks to get a good look at his outfit.

Sweet tooth

The singer occasionally skips straight back out of the courtroom to use the bathroom.

He still has a liking for the bailiff's jar of sweets and usually grabs a handful to share with his lawyers.

Pre-back problem he used to kill time by doing a few stretching exercises - crouching low behind the diving wall in the courtroom.

It caused much amusement amongst the fans when all they could see of the singer was his head bobbing up and down.

With the scene set, the jurors are the last to be seated.

They bustle in with an air of expectancy. One elderly lady carries her own cushion.

It would not look out of place if the jurors were clutching cartons of popcorn but all they are allowed is bottled water.

A bell rings, the judge enters and the show gets under way.

Tuesday 15 March: 2041 local time (0441 GMT Wednesday)

The roller-coaster ride continues. Yesterday the tide appeared to turn against young Gavin Arvizo as he faltered on the witness stand against Michael Jackson's formidable defence lawyer, Thomas Mesereau.

His admission that he told his teacher nothing bad happened at Neverland seemed to fall into Mr Mesereau's hands and left observers wondering how the prosecution would salvage its case.

Gavin came across as cheeky kid who was not afraid to quip back at the lawyer. He was often sarcastic. But today has been a very different story.

Gavin, in the safer hands of prosecutor Tom Sneddon, appeared to be a more humble witness. The jurors seemed to be moved when he talked about his battle with cancer.

But he managed to clinch the headline of the day when he explained that he told his teacher he was not abused at Neverland because he did not want other kids at his school to believe it "really happened".

He said he had been subjected to verbal abuse in the playground after the Martin Bashir documentary aired. His reasoning appeared plausible.

Tuesday 15 March: 1415 local time (2215 GMT)

The so-called "no-nonsense" judge faced a rebellion from the jury today. Rodney Melville has imposed a tough six-hour regime on everyone connected with the trial.

The court sits from 0830 to 1430 with only three breaks - two are 10 minutes long and at lunchtime we get a whopping 15 minutes. At the beginning of the trial, Judge Melville quipped the schedule should be named the "Melville Diet".

Today, the jurors fell off the wagon. A local restaurant got wind that they were starving and sent a stack of pizzas to the court. It resulted in the panel taking an extra 15 minutes to return after lunch.

Judge Melville explained to the court the jury had "sent out an attack squadron" and they wanted time to eat their pizzas. It provided a much-need moment of levity on a particularly tedious afternoon.

Thursday 10 March: 2229 local time (0629 Friday GMT)

"Just another day in the crazy Michael Jackson case," was how once journalist summed up today's extraordinary events.

Most reporters covering the case sit on the edge of their seats every day half expecting something bizarre or surreal to happen.

And it was obvious from about 0815 that something was very wrong in the Jackson camp.

The singer's lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, was pacing up and down the courtroom with a mobile phone glued to his ear. He looked worried. We were getting excited. At one point the court bailiff grabbed the phone and rushed outside.

All the time Michael Jackson's seat was conspicuously empty. It was not long before another dramatic sequence of events was unfolding before us. The judge's stunning announcement that he had ordered an arrest warrant for Mr Jackson, the mad dash outside by reporters to break the news to the world, and the frenzied coverage that consumed the rest of the day.

"It doesn't get better than this," said one interviewer, clearly relishing the latest twist. The media pen is buzzing and we're only on day nine of what could be a five-month trial.

Wednesday 9 March: 2157 local time (0557 Thursday GMT)

It was a nervous-looking but composed Gavin Arvizo, Michael Jackson's accuser, that took to the witness stand shortly before 1330 today. It was the moment everyone in the courtroom had been waiting for and a moment of high drama.

The atmosphere was tense. Michael Jackson stared straight ahead. Gavin looked smart. He was wearing a neat bright blue shirt and had closely cropped hair. At times, he appeared to address the jurors directly, often taking time to think about his answers.

It is early days and remains to be seen whether the 15-year old will deliver a knock-out punch in terms of damaging testimony against Michael Jackson. But if any sort of smoking gun is to be produced, most legal pundits here reckon it will have to come from Gavin, in the next few days, for the prosecution's case is to stand any chance of succeeding.

Saturday 6 March: 0758 local time (1558 GMT)

It has been a fascinating but gruelling week in court. The high points - at least in terms of gripping evidence - were on video. The police tape showing the inside of the Neverland ranch had everyone in the courtroom glued to the big screen. Fans, reporters and jurors were leaning forward in their seats to get a better look at the weird, cluttered, private world of Michael Jackson - the mannequins, life-size dolls and tacky decor.

Jermaine and LaToya Jackson
Jermaine and LaToya Jackson were in court to support their brother on Friday
The other video to elicit a jaw-dropping reaction from onlookers was of the accuser's family singing the praises of Michael Jackson. Prosecutors say glowing appraisals of the singer as a "loving, kind, humble man" with a "special heart" were scripted for the family. But most observers agree that the video was a major boost for Michael Jackson.

The chattering pundits on the US TV networks have the singer well ahead at the end of week one.

Last night everyone associated with the case appeared to be exhausted. It has moved at such a pace. The firm but friendly bailiff who gives us a pep talk every morning, started the fifth day by exclaiming, "It's Friday!" We shared the relief in her voice. She is, however, still irritated by people who leave chewing gum stuck to their seats. "Someone has to clean it up," she said. "Your mom doesn't work here. The maid quit this week."

Wednesday 2 March: 2044 local time (0648 Thursday GMT)

There was a 28-minute delay before the trial got under way today. It caused much grumbling from the assembled reporters. We are required to be in our seats by 0750. Judge Rodney Melville finally took to the bench at 0858 only to discover that his microphone was broken.

He moved to the witness stand, where the mic was working, to make his opening remarks. "Can you hear me now? I sound like one of those commercials for a cell phone," he joked.

"Can you hear me now," he repeated. Everyone laughed.

Earlier, while we were waiting, Michael Jackson stood alongside the court bailiff's desk where there are a couple of jars of sweets - some mints and what appeared to be assorted candies.

He helped himself to one. Then another which he held up to the light before returning to the jar. Maybe he was looking for his favourite colour. He then chose another and stuffed it into the top jacket pocket of one of his lawyers - who looked somewhat bemused.

Back to the courtroom sound problems. Later in the day, the mic of Michael Jackson's lead lawyer was playing up and people were finding him hard to hear. It was brought to the judge's attention after a particularly long and tedious cross-examination by the lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, of a witness.

"Oh, has he been talking?," Judge Melville deadpanned.

He is proving to a master of the one-liner. It got the biggest laugh of the day and even woke a few people up.

Tuesday 2 March: 2248 local time (0648 Wednesday GMT)

Whatever you think of Michael Jackson, it is impossible not to stop and gawp as he enters the courtroom. We reporters - along with the singer's family and fans - are seated well in advance of him making his appearance just before 0830.

Michael Jackson and his mother
Michael Jackson and his mother Catherine

We get a daily lecture from the court bailiff. Her beef today was about those members of press or public who leave chewing gum stuck to their chairs at the end of the session.

"We're adults here, your gum goes in the trash bin," she said.

Michael Jackson has to walk through the public area of the court to reach the lawyers' bench and take his seat. Sitting at the end of a row today I got a close-up look at this extraordinary character.

He is extremely skinny and pasty looking but always walks in with a beaming smile. Today he paused briefly to blow a kiss to what seemed like the entire room.

The fans sitting in seats behind me were in heaven.

"This is the first time I've got to see him in person and it was everything I wanted," gushed one young woman. "I mean, bad circumstances of course, but I loved it."




Michael Jackson on trial

Michael Jackson Jackson show
How the star's style has changed during lengthy trial

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