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Jackson jury shown Bashir documentary.

Michael jackson's lawyer told jurors in a powerful opening statement yesterday that authorities found no DNA evidence in the entertainer's bedroom to support child molestation charges.

'Mr Jackson flat-out denies these molestation allegations,' Thomas Mesereau told the jury. 'They are false.'

When Mesereau finished, the prosecution called as its first witness British journalist Martin Bashir, who made Living With Michael Jackson, the TV documentary in which Jackson held hands with Gavin Arvizo, the 13-year-old boy who later accused him, and in which the pop star acknowledged sharing his bedroom with children.

District Attorney Tom Sneddon then began showing the two-hour programme to the jury in the trial at Santa Maria, California.

In his statement, Mesereau used language that hinted that Jackson might testify in his own defence, but he never expressly told the jurors that Jackson would give evidence. Jackson is not on the defence witness list.

'Michael will tell you one time he got a very bad feeling at Neverland,' Mesereau said at one point, referring to Jackson's estate where prosecutors allege he molested the boy in his bedroom.

The attorney said Jackson got the feeling when he took the accuser, his mother and her other two children to his private theatre to see a movie.

'All of a sudden (the mother) grabs Michael Jackson's hand and her children's hands and says, 'Let's all kneel down and pray with our daddy, Michael Jackson.'

'Michael got a very bad feeling and thought, 'I've got to get away',' he said.

Mesereau had said at the start of his speech on Monday that the promises made in opening statements must be kept and that he would keep all of his promises to the jury. He suggested the prosecutor would not.

The defence attorney reminded the jurors that in detailing specific acts of alleged molestation, the prosecutor had given them this 'lurid discussion.' But, he said, no DNA from the accuser was found in Jackson's bedroom when it was searched.

Mesereau accused the prosecution of changing the dates of the alleged molestation because they were in conflict with an interview between child welfare workers and the family, who praised Jackson 'to the hilt'.

He said the boy once told investigators the molestation occurred prior to the February 21 interview, but at another point claimed the molestation occurred afterwards.

The attorney said the mother was using the criminal charges to build a civil case in order to get a financial pay-off.

Mesereau said the woman's attorney, Larry Feldman, had a lunch with CNN programme host Larry King in which Feldman said of her, 'She wants money.'

Feldman also represented a boy who accused Jackson of molestation in 1993. That boy received a multi-million-dollar settlement from Jackson and no charges were filed in that matter.

Neither Sneddon nor Mesereau mentioned the 1993 allegation in their opening statements because the judge has not yet ruled on whether prosecutors will be allowed to introduce evidence from that investigation in the trial.

The defence attorney also addressed allegations that Jackson showed sexually explicit images and gave alcohol to Gavin.

Mesereau said the children were sometimes 'out of control' at Neverland and read Jackson's magazines and broke into his alcohol without his permission.

'Mr Jackson will freely admit that he does read girlie magazines. 'He absolutely does not show them to children.'

In his opening statement, Sneddon said Jackson gave his accuser alcohol to make him more susceptible to molestation, and explicit magazines were found with Gavin Arvizo's fingerprints and one magazine had the fingerprints of Jackson and the accuser.

Mesereau offered a possible explanation, saying Jackson once caught the boy reading his magazines and took them away and locked them up

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 2, 2005
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