Michael Jackson got a little help from some of his celebrity friends -- and even "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno, who has used "The King of Pop's" molestation trial as a punch line. But will jurors be persuaded to reject the prosecution's case?
Jackson's defense rested today after almost three weeks of testimony. Jackson, 46, is on trial for allegedly molesting a now-15-year-old boy, a cancer survivor, who spent time at his Neverland ranch and appeared with him in the 2003 British documentary "Living With Michael Jackson." He has pleaded not guilty to 10 charges that include felony conspiracy with 28 overt acts involving child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. Jackson's defense has argued that the alleged victim and his family -- in an alleged scheme orchestrated by the boy's mother -- made up false allegations in an attempt to get a monetary settlement out of the singer.
The defense rested following the testimony of comedic actor Chris Tucker, who told jurors about how he met the alleged victim and his family. Tucker called the boy "cunning" and said he repeatedly asked for gifts but forgave him because of his illness. He testified that he grew suspicious and warned Jackson to "watch out" for the boy's mother.
Jackson's attorneys wanted Tucker and Leno to illustrate their argument that the alleged victim and his relatives are grifters who have approached celebrities to get donations and to live lavish lifestyles. In his opening statement, lead Jackson defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. indicated that Leno would testify that the boy and his mother asked him for money in what he believed was a scam.
However, Leno did not live up to the defense's expectations. He testified Tuesday that he received several phone messages from the alleged victim and was suspicious because the boy's admiration of him seemed "overly effusive" and scripted. But Leno -- who frequently has joked about Jackson and his legal woes on "The Tonight Show" -- also told the court that the boy and his mother never asked him for money and he never sent them a donation. Like comedians George Lopez and Louise Palanker before him, Leno did not tell jurors, as the defense had suggested, that the boy and his family tried to get money from him.
"Even though these folks have been portrayed as scam artists and grifters, Leno said he [the boy] never asked me for money in all these phone calls," said ABC News legal analyst Royal Oakes. "So here you have a kid talking with one of the richest guys in the world -- one of the most famous people -- and he has the chance to get money out of him, and he never asks for it. So, all in all, big setback for the defense, in my opinion."
Despite mixed results from Leno's testimony, Jackson's defense, critics argue, has poked holes in the prosecution's case by casting doubt on the credibility of the alleged victim and his family, particularly his mother.
"They have succeeded in casting further doubt on the prosecution's case, which had problems going in," said California-based defense attorney Steve Cron.