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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 May, 2005, 08:23 GMT 09:23 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.

Friday 29 April: 1505 local time (2305 BST)

For much of today the jury was kept out of the courtroom while the judge thrashed out a few legal issues with the attorneys.

Eventually, when everything was settled, the prosecution announced that it had no more witnesses for the day.

The jury had been kept hanging around behind the scenes for nothing. Someone had to tell them.

"I don't think I could face them," said Judge Melville. But he changed his mind. "I'll be a man about this!"

The jury filed in and Melville looked over to the lawyers: "You tell them," he said.

The weary-looking jurors had bemused looks on their faces. What on earth was the judge about to announce? When they learned the truth several members of the panel threw their heads back and dissolved in laughter.

They were just glad to be going home an hour early.

Next week the prosecution is expected to rest its case on Tuesday.

Thursday 28 April: 2226 local time (0626 BST Friday)

Debbie Rowe was supposed to be the dynamite witness at the end of the prosecution's case. She ended up exploding in their faces.

At one point, upon being informed by defence lawyer Thomas Mesereau that the Santa Barbara sheriffs had monitored her phone calls, she looked at the prosecutors and blurted out: "Damn you guys. You never share anything. Did you bug my phones?"

Debbie Rowe was hot-headed and angry. Angry, that is, at everyone but Michael Jackson.

Debbie Rowe
Debbie Rowe's testimony has been disastrous for the prosecution
She doesn't appear to blame him for anything. Having described the singer's associates as "opportunistic vultures", she was asked by Mesereau who else she considered to be a vulture.

She paused, smiled and asked: "If it's a personal opinion, does it count?"

The prosecution objected and the judge jumped in. "It sounds like she's got a long list," he said, before sustaining the objection.

Pity, because it would have been an interesting list. Debbie Rowe is an angry woman - but probably not as angry as the prosecutor that decided to call her as a witness. She was a disaster for them.

Wednesday 27 April: 2110 local time (0510 BST Thursday)

Debbie Rowe's appearance lived up to the hype - but she took us all by surprise.

She seems to have flipped. That's what the lawyers call it when a witness for one side turns out to be better for the opposition.

There was a palpable tension in the courtroom when Deborah Rowe Jackson, as she called herself, walked in.

After a few loving glances at her ex she was soon sobbing on the witness stand. She came across as still being besotted by her former husband.

At one point, her voice cracking with emotion, said she, "he's still my friend".

She said she was neither scripted nor paid to appear on the so-called rebuttal documentary for Michael Jackson.

Surely that was not what the prosecution wanted to hear.

But maybe it was. Maybe the tactic is to build up Debbie as such a loyal pal of the singer that when she does go for the jugular, the jury will have no choice but to believe her.

She was on the witness stand for only 35 minutes on Wednesday and there is clearly a lot more to come.

The day ended on a cliff-hanger. Ms Rowe was just about to explain why she lied in the rebuttal interview when the judge sent everyone home for the day.

Tuesday 26 April: 2124 local time (0524 BST Wednesday)

Debbie Rowe
Mr Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe is a highly-anticipated witness
Does Debbie Rowe have the smoking gun that could help convict her ex-husband?

Will she deliver a knock-out blow for the prosecution?

Questions everyone is asking around the court as Michael Jackson's former wife - and mother of two of his children - prepares to appear as a witness for the prosecution.

She is certainly the most anticipated witness for, well, at least a week. And a week is a long time in this trial.

The last big hitter was Janet Arvizo, the accuser's mother.

But the prospect of hearing from the woman who must know so much about the private world of Michael Jackson is tantalising.

She is due to take the witness stand on Wednesday.

Monday 25 April: 2026 local time (0426 BST Tuesday)

Brian Oxman
The Jackson family lawyer Brian Oxman has been taken off the case
Now Mr Jackson's lawyers are bickering between themselves. An intriguing subplot to this extraordinary trial has been developing all day.

Jackson family lawyer Brian Oxman has been sacked by the singer's lead attorney, Thomas Mesereau.

The first sign that something was amiss came when Mr Oxman was publicly humiliated in the courtroom.

He was ordered by the bailiff to leave the lawyers' area in the well of the court and take a seat in the public gallery.

Then, at close of play, in the car park, he was subjected to what looked like very public dressing down by finger-wagging Mr Mesereau.

A short time later, a document announcing Mr Oxman's "Notice of Disassociation" to the case was posted on the court's website.

We do not know why they have fallen out - but it has been obvious to any courtroom observer that the two lawyers have been at loggerheads for weeks.

Mr Oxman, who was forced to sit behind his colleagues, was often dismissed by a flick of the hand when he tried to get in on a conversation.

But he always had the ear of Michael Jackson and appeared to be close to the singer's parents.

It looks like the beleaguered pop star has lost a friend in the courtroom.

Tuesday 19 April: 1836 local time (0236 BST Wednesday)

There is light at the end of the tunnel.

The prosecution told the judge today that it will complete the presentation of its case against Michael Jackson next week. Then it will be the turn of the defence to put the pop star's side of the story.

And if you think it's been wild ride so far, you ain't seen nothing yet.

The witness list for the defence reads like a Who's Who of Hollywood and many celebrities could be called to appear in the Santa Maria courtroom.

They include long-time Jackson friend Elizabeth Taylor and music icons such as Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder. There is also the prospect of seeing the singer's own children take to the witness stand in their father's defence.

Hold on to your hats.

Tuesday 19 April: 0632 local time (1432 BST)

Janet Arvizo (right) outside court on 18 April
Janet Arvizo has been a compelling witness
Janet Arvizo is about to start her fifth day on the witness stand. She has been one of the most compelling witnesses so far. She has also proven to be a loose cannon and could end up being disastrous for the prosecution.

She rarely gives a straight answer to defence lawyer Thomas Mesereau's questions - and has often chosen to respond using a repetitive array or words and phrases. Her favourites have been:

"Zero."
"Yes, this is correct."
"It never happened."
"It's burned inside my memory."
"I've learned things now."
"I don't understand what he's saying."
"I'm still nobody."
"Money doesn't buy happiness."

Following Ms Arvizo, there could be around 20 more witnesses for the prosecution. The case still looks destined to drag on until late summer.

Sunday 17 April: 2125 local time (0525 BST Monday)

Week Eight will start with the return of Janet Arvizo to the witness stand for a fourth day.

The mother of the alleged victim, Gavin, is proving to be the most memorable and entertaining witness so far. She cannot resist blurting out any thought that comes to her mind.

Halle Berry as Catwoman
Janet Arvizo referred to Catwoman while giving evidence
While trying to explain that she was acting in the so-called rebuttal video, Ms Arvizo suddenly snapped: "You are not going to call Halle Berry and say, 'Are you Catwoman?'"

Everyone chuckled. Sadly for Ms Arvizo, the courtroom was laughing at her, rather than with her.

It is for the jury to decide whether her outbursts are truly spontaneous or part of some ill-thought out act to secure the conviction of Michael Jackson.

Her line that "Neverland is all about booze, pornography and sex with boys" bore an uncanny resemblance to comments District Attorney Tom Sneddon made in his opening statement: "The private world of Michael Jackson reveals that instead of cookies and milk, you can substitute wine, bourbon and vodka... it's not children's books, but visits to internet porn sites."

Michael Jackson's defence had been looking decidedly shaky, but the unpredictable Janet Arvizo may have thrown the singer a lifeline.

Thursday 14 April: 2035 local time (0435 BST Friday)

Michael Jackson fans outside court
Michael Jackson fans scream each day as reporters file into court
For those of us sitting through every minute of this interminable trial, there is a sense that we are living our own version of Groundhog Day.

The 1993 film stars Bill Murray as a cynical weatherman who is forced continuously to re-live the worst day of his life.

The clock radio comes on at the same time each morning. The same tune plays and he goes through his day encountering the same cast of characters.

In Santa Maria my clock radio clicks on to a local station. It is a news show but the daily menu never changes. "News, weather and traffic, a farm report and we'll check in with Hollywood...."

At 0600 my Groundhog Day has started. I drive a mile and a half to the courthouse, pass the same local man on the corner of the street waiting for his ride to work and park in the same spot at the town centre shopping mall.

We reporters are all expected to go into the court at precisely 0750. As we walk in, the fans scream and hurl abuse. Most of us tend to make a beeline for our favourite position in the press rows.

At 0805 the courtroom bailiff give us her daily lecture. It is always the same. "No eating, chewing gum or sleeping. Be kind and courteous to each other...."

Actually, today she managed to slip in a new phrase: "No touching, no reaching out."

They don't want us making physical contact with Michael Jackson or his legal team. As if.

Strangely, for the first time, the bailiff got a round of applause. Jackson has also become a creature of habit.

He makes his entrance at precisely 0828 followed a minute later by the jury and then the judge at 0830.

Oh, for the days of early morning dramas and unscheduled trips to the hospital by a pyjama clad Michael Jackson!

Tuesday 12 April: 2230 local time (0630 BST Wednesday)

Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon
Tom Sneddon addressed the jury before Ms Arvizo's appearance
Janet Jackson is expected to take to the witness stand on Wednesday. Not Janet, famous sister of Michael, but Janet Arvizo - the mother of 15 year old Gavin who says he was sexually abused by the singer.

Ms Arvizo is now married to Major Jay Jackson, hence the new surname. It is another bizarre twist to this story that you simply could not dream up.

There has been some doubt over whether Janet Jackson (nee Arvizo) would appear in court at all.

The prosecution has reportedly asked that Michael Jackson's defence be prevented from asking the mother any questions about welfare fraud.

However, the jury has already been told by District Attorney Tom Sneddon that the mother "obtained welfare funds when she wasn't entitled to them. She's going to tell you that, and she's going to admit that."

It will be another tense day in court.

Monday 11 April: 2145 local time (0545 BST Tuesday)

Bob Jones
Bob Jones said he did not see Mr Jackson lick Jordy Chandler's head
The prosecution keeps running out of witnesses. Today, and last Friday, the jury went home early because there was no-one else waiting in the wings to put on the witness stand.

It may be a sign that for all the months of pre-trial hearings, this case is suffering from a lack of preparation by the prosecution team.

The lawyers sometimes appear to be fumbling around with witnesses that are unprepared for their questions and often give testimony that not only takes the prosecution by surprise but favours the defence.

Today, prosecutor Gordon Auchincloss struggled to get Michael Jackson's former PR guy, Bob Jones, to say he had seen the singer lick the head of Jordy Chandler in the early 1990s.

That is clearly what he expected the former communications chief to testify.

But on the witness stand, Mr Jones said: "I don't recall anything about licking." Oops. Another point to Michael Jackson.

Wednesday 6 April: 1250 local time (2050 BST)

The report suggesting jurors have been talking about the case outside the courtroom has been dismissed by a court official as "an unsubstantiated rumour".

According to Darrel Parker: "Judge Melville is aware of the report and there is no investigation." A story that jurors were overheard mocking a witness first emerged on the internet and was also carried by US TV and radio.

Wednesday 6 April: 0833 local time (1633 BST Wednesday)

Rumours are flying around that some of the jurors have been overheard talking about the case outside the courtroom. It has been reported that three members of the media spotted the jurors discussing the trial.

They are not supposed to talk about the evidence until formal deliberations start. The matter has apparently been reported to the judge. It may turn out to be nothing.

But if the judge considers it to be a serious case of juror misconduct, a may result in a major upheaval on the jury panel. There could be another call for a mistrial. The trial is currently adjourned until Thursday.

Tuesday 5 April: 2237 local time (0637 BST Wednesday)

Jason Francia
Jason Francia, 24, choked back tears as he gave his evidence
The mood has changed in the courtroom. The laughter has stopped.

When Jason Francia, a 24-year-old car parts salesman, almost broke down on the witness stand, you could hear a pin drop.

He appeared to be haunted by the memory of something terrible in his childhood.

He choked back tears and asked the judge for a break before continuing with his story. If he is to be believed, he was sexually abused by Michael Jackson on three occasions.

Most legal and media observers have described his performance as potentially devastating for Michael Jackson.

He is a God-fearing young man, recently married and deeply involved with the church.

He was asked by the prosecutor about the alleged abuse: "Who was the first person you told about it?"
"Probably God," he responded.

In this largely conservative community, it must have been a message that resonated with the jury. It certainly sent a lightening bolt through the courtroom.

Yet 24 hours later, his mother came across as vague and unconvincing.

Under cross examination, she acknowledged receiving an out-of-court settlement - reportedly $2m (1.06m) - plus a $20,000 (106,000) payment from a TV show to talk about Michael Jackson.

What is the jury to make of that? The singer's argument that this is all about money once again appears plausible.

Sunday 3 April: 2335 local time (0735 BST Monday)

Michael Jackson impersonator Navi
Michael Jackson impersonator Navi prepares for the concert
Michael Jackson has spoken out again. This time he used a fan rally and a speakerphone to communicate with his supporters.

The singer's surprise phone call came in the middle of a concert, dubbed Many Nations, One Voice, and attended by about 400 fans.

"Thank you so much for your love and your prayers and your gifts," Jackson said. "God and the truth are on our side. We will be victorious."

The fans were in heaven. They screamed at the phone: "We love you, we love you."

The chanting soon became more raucous with shouts of "Sneddon sucks, Sneddon sucks" - a reference to District Attorney Tom Sneddon, who is leading the prosecutions case against the singer.

Jackson ignored it and finished his two-minute call with: "Have fun and keep dancing and God bless you and I love all."

Early on Monday morning, the fans plan to dress all in white for a march on the courthouse and candlelight vigil.

"I hope Michael sees us and I hope Michael cries tears of joy," said Sam Davidson, a 21-year-old fan from London. "That would be mission accomplished for me."

Saturday 2 April: 0858 local time (1758 BST Saturday)

A weekend off for everyone to recharge their batteries and smell the flowers.

Friday was a tense day in the courtroom. At one stage Judge Melville appeared to lose his temper.

Californian flowers
Judge Melville suggested everyone relax in the countryside

During one exchange with the District Attorney, Tom Sneddon, he snapped: "Don't look at me like that." Clearly taken aback, the prosecutor responded: "I'm sorry, I was thinking of the next question."

The moment soon passed but as the day drew to a close, the judge suggested that everyone needed to get out and clear their minds.

He urged the jurors to look at the California countryside and appreciate the abundance of yellow wildflowers.

It was, he said, "a wonderful way to relax". The local hills are currently carpeted by a spectacular display of colour thanks to one of the wettest winters on record.

When the defence later asked for a mistrial, the lawyers offered to file motions on the matter by Monday. "If you look at the flowers, I'll give you to Tuesday," quipped Judge Melville.




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