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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 June, 2005, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Jackson jury considering verdict
Fans outside the Santa Maria court house
Michael Jackson fans have kept a constant vigil during the trial
Jurors have been sent home for the weekend, after starting to consider their verdict in the child abuse trial of American pop star Michael Jackson.

The jury was sent out after rival lawyers finished closing statements. Mr Jackson's lawyer tried to discredit his accusers and dismiss their claims.

Michael Jackson denies all 10 charges against him, including giving alcohol to a boy of 13 and abusing him.

He could be jailed for 20 years if convicted on all charges.

Key witnesses

The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for two hours on Friday, before going home for the weekend.

They will return on Monday, and are expected to deliberate for about six hours a day until they either reach verdicts or announce a deadlock.

In his closing arguments, Mr Jackson's lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, told jurors that the abuse allegations by Gavin Arvizo were the work of a family intent on capitalising on his client's fame and wealth.

Michael Jackson arriving in court on Thursday

"Why did they bring this case against Michael Jackson? Because he is a megacelebrity, and they hope they can get away with it," Mr Mesereau said.

In their closing argument, prosecutors portrayed the star as a serial paedophile who should be held responsible for abusing boys.

Prosecutor Ron Zonen said "something terribly illegal" happened at Mr Jackson's Neverland ranch after the Arvizo family went to stay with the singer in 2003.

He recalled testimony from Gavin and his younger brother, Star - two of 80 prosecution witnesses called - alleging that Gavin was molested as he stayed with Mr Jackson.

Gavin Arvizo testified on 10 March.

He told the jury that Mr Jackson had told him about masturbation and allegedly gave him wine, vodka and brandy.

Days earlier, the jury was shown a video in which Gavin had said Mr Jackson "treats me like he's my father".

Gavin's mother, Janet, told the trial when she took the stand: "He really didn't care about children. He just cared about what he was doing with the children."

She has been one of the most compelling witnesses - but also a loose cannon who hardly helped the case against Mr Jackson, says the BBC's Peter Bowes, who has followed the trial.

Gavin Arvizo, accuser - testified that he was twice molested
Star Arvizo, accuser's brother - said he had twice seen Mr Jackson abuse Gavin as he slept
Janet Arvizo, accuser's mother - said she and her sons had been held captive at Neverland
Debbie Rowe, Mr Jackson's ex-wife - described Mr Jackson as generous and kind, and manipulated by his aides
Macaulay Culkin, actor - said the singer had never molested him
Mark Geragos, Jackson's ex-lawyer - had concerns about Arvizos' intentions and hired private detectives
Jay Leno, comedian - was suspicious of the Arvizos but had not been asked for money

Neither did Mr Jackson's second wife, Debbie Rowe, help matters, he says.

She did not blame her former husband and father of their two children for anything - focusing instead on the singer's associates who she described as "opportunistic vultures".

The witness list the defence hinted it would call as they began their case read like a Who's Who of Hollywood.

They included long-time Jackson friend Elizabeth Taylor and music icons such as Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder.

In the event they were spared a courtroom appearance - and only 50 defence witnesses were called.

But the defence's top witnesses included actor Macaulay Culkin who called the allegations against Jackson "absolutely ridiculous" and told jurors that the singer "never" sexually molested him or touched him in an improper or offensive way when he was a boy.

The 24-year-old rejected earlier testimony from two former Neverland employees who said they saw Mr Jackson behaving inappropriately with him in the early 1990s, when he visited the ranch.

Michael Jackson's former lawyer, Mark Geragos, told the trial that he had "grave concerns" about the intentions of the singer's accuser and had hired a private detective to follow them.

Mr Geragos said he thought they would try to concoct a story about Mr Jackson for financial gain.

But if Debbie Rowe was a disappointment for the prosecution, US comedian and TV chat show host Jay Leno, was as much for the defence.

He told the jurors that he was suspicious of the singer's accuser when they spoke on the phone - but that he had never been asked for money.

Watch Michael Jackson outside court as the jury retires


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