Michael Jackson will not take stand in trial

By Dan Whitcomb

SANTA MARIA, California - Michael Jackson will not testify in his child molestation trial, it was revealed today.

His lawyers called their last witnesses, including talk show host Jay Leno, clearing the way for closing arguments in his molestation trial by next week without jurors ever hearing directly from Jackson himself.

Jackson's lead attorney, Tom Mesereau, said comedian Chris Tucker, best-known for co-starring with Jackie Chan in the Rush Hour movies, would be the last witness called by the defence, ruling out any testimony by the pop singer.

Mesereau had hinted early in the trial that Jackson could take the stand, a risky move that would have subjected the 46-year-old entertainer to cross-examination by prosecutors who claim he has a record of cultivating boys for sexual abuse going back over a decade.

Leno, host of the The Tonight Show, the top-rated US late-night talk show, earlier told jurors of calls from Jackson's accuser in 2000 that he considered suspicious.

Leno said he found the calls to be excessively flattering coming from a young boy suffering from cancer, adding that they seemed to be scripted.

"The voicemails were, 'Oh I'm a big fan, you're the greatest.' They were overly effusive for a 10-year-old," Leno said. "It seemed a little bit unusual. I'm a comedian in my mid-fifties. I'm not Batman."

Defence lawyers have sought to portray the mother of Jackson's accuser as a swindler who routinely flattered celebrities, targeted them for money and coached her son to lie about the 2003 molestation charges that are at the centre of the current trial.

Jackson is charged with molesting the boy, then 13, at Neverland Valley Ranch in February or March of 2003, plying him with alcohol and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. He faces more than two decades in prison if convicted.

On cross-examination by the prosecution, Leno said he had never been asked for money by the mother of the boy. "No one ever asked me for anything and I'm sure of that because if they had I would have said something," he said.

Tucker, who was called to the stand late on Tuesday, supported the boy through his cancer treatment and was present during some of the key events in the case. He met the boy and his family at a Hollywood comedy camp.

He is expected to continue testifying on Wednesday.

- REUTERS

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