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Last Updated: Monday, 6 June, 2005, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
Trial health problems for Jackson
By Matthew Davis
BBC News, Santa Maria, California

Michael Jackson
Mr Jackson attended court in pyjamas with flu-like symptoms
Michael Jackson's health has become the subject of renewed speculation after another hospital visit for the "stressed" singer who is anxiously awaiting a verdict in his child sex abuse trial.

On Sunday Mr Jackson was taken to the emergency room of a small hospital near his Neverland ranch in California for treatment on a back problem that aides say has afflicted him throughout the trial.

The five-hour visit was the pop star's second hospital stay since Thursday and his spokeswoman admitted Mr Jackson was feeling the strain.

"He's under a tremendous amount of stress right now," Raymone Bain told reporters outside the 22-bed Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital.

Monday is the jury's first full day of deliberations and even legal experts well used to making predictions are describing the decision as impossible to call.

Mr Jackson faces up to 20 years in jail if he is convicted of all the charges against him.

Back pain

The 46-year-old singer's trial has already been interrupted by his health problems, firstly during jury selection when he went to hospital suffering from flu-like symptoms.

In March, with his accuser on the stand, Mr Jackson failed to show up in court, prompting Judge Rodney Melville to issue a warrant for his arrest.

The singer arrived an hour later wearing pyjamas and a jacket and complaining of back pain.

But recently the singer has looked increasingly frail and underweight - clearly a different man to the Michael Jackson who danced on an SUV during his arraignment hearing 18 months ago.

Michael Jackson
He was so dehydrated I thought he was developing kidney stones
Family friend Dick Gregory
Observers have contrasted the buoyant energy Mr Jackson is famed for as a performer with the stiff and sombre figure at his last court appearance.

Speculation about Jackson's wellbeing intensified on Saturday afternoon when a van carrying cardio care equipment arrived at Neverland.

The Los Angeles-based company that supplied the equipment specialises in Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP) machines - used to help angina patients reduce shortness of breath, chest pains or stabilise blood pressure.

Comedian Dick Gregory, a Jackson family friend, says the proceedings are taking their toll.

"When you are under stress for 12 months, for 18 months, no one can understand but the person going through it.

"He was so dehydrated I thought he was developing kidney stones. You can't drink enough water while you are standing in court."

It is simply not true that he is falling apart
Michael Jackson's spokeswoman Raymone Bain
Mr Gregory said Mr Jackson visited Cottage Hospital on Thursday to procure IV fluids but hospital officials would not confirm details of the visit.

Meanwhile, Ms Bain was quick to dispel any notion that Mr Jackson could be seeking sympathy.

"Michael Jackson is stronger than people think," she told Fox News.

His back had been "bothering him all week" she said, but he was determined to sit through all the court sessions.

"It is simply not true that he is falling apart," she added. "A lot of those personal views are a distraction."

Michael Jackson's car
Mr Jackson was taken to hospital as the jury considered their verdict
Jackson supporters gathered at the gates of Neverland were urging the singer to "stay strong" as the case reaches its final phase.

Fans have been painting signs, getting banners ready and have been tying strips of material to their car aerials.

Hundreds are expected to be outside the courthouse in Santa Maria when Mr Jackson is given notice that a verdict has been reached.

The judge has instructed Mr Jackson to stay within an hour of the town. He has also allowed an audio feed of the verdict to be transmitted.

In a further sign of support for the singer, the Reverend Jesse Jackson said he had arrived in the area to meet and pray with him.


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