SANTA MARIA, Calif. – Jurors in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial completed their first full day of deliberations Monday without reaching a verdict.
Little more than an hour into the day the jurors sent word to the judge that they had a question, but the query and its resolution were not publicly disclosed, drawing a protest from news media.
Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old cancer survivor in 2003, plying him with wine and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut a damaging TV documentary about the singer. He could get several years in prison if convicted on the molestation counts.
The jury got the case Friday afternoon and deliberated for about two hours.
Jackson fans waited outside the courthouse Monday holding signs saying such things as “Only love. No crime. He’s innocent. Leave him alone,” “We shall overcome” and “Peter Pan rules.” A woman held a sign showing Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jackson.
But the fans were outnumbered by an international throng of reporters, photographers and TV crews. At one point, Jackson’s father, Joe Jackson, arrived and was mobbed by cameras.
On the issue of the jury question, media pool coordinator Peter Shaplen said Judge Rodney S. Melville held a private meeting with lawyers in chambers to discuss the question and how it would be answered. Shaplen said the judge did not plan to reveal to the public what the jurors asked about.
The procedure is said to be unusual. Normally, questions from the jury are a public record since they are submitted in writing by the jury foreperson.
An attorney for news organizations including the Associated Press filed motions seeking a transcript of Monday’s closed proceedings, immediate access to any questions from the jury, and to any proceedings concerning those questions.
Jackson was treated at hospital emergency room in the town of Solvang on Sunday and rumors repeatedly swirled through the press corps that he was returning there Monday. Jackson spokeswoman Raymone K. Bain said he did not and was feeling fine.
Sunday’s hospital treatment was for a recurrence of back trouble, Bain said.
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