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Pair of rulings expected to prolong Jackson case

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Jurors in the Michael Jackson molestation trial will get to see a July 2003 videotape of the accuser telling investigators the details of how he was allegedly molested by the pop star but will not be allowed to see pictures of the singer's genitalia, Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville ruled yesterday.

The judge also decided that the defense can call the boy, his mother, the lawyer who represented the family and a psychologist as part of its rebuttal case.

If the boy and his mother are recalled, it would be a rerun of two of the more dramatic confrontations in the trial that began in February.

Melville's rulings, one for the prosecution and one for the defense, mean the rebuttal phase of the trial will last several more days than expected. The jury would have otherwise received the case early next week.

After Melville's rulings, the prosecution called eight witnesses, bringing to 12 the number who have testified since the defense rested Wednesday. It was the kind of painstaking day of challenging details that draw few headlines but are potentially important for jurors.

On Wednesday, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas Sneddon said the videotaped interview was necessary to present to jurors because it showed the accuser's account in July 2003, just months after the molestations are alleged to have occurred. It was the first time the boy, now 15, had talked to a law enforcement official.

The interview with investigators from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department came after the accuser told a psychologist, Stan Katz, of the alleged abuse. Katz was brought in by Larry Feldman, an attorney who was contacted because he was involved in another molestation case involving Jackson in the 1990s.

The earlier incident did not result in criminal charges but did lead to a more than $20 million settlement paid by Jackson to a boy's family.

Both Katz and Feldman briefly testified for the prosecution. Under Melville's ruling, they could return to the stand.

The prosecution is hoping to use the tape to counter the defense's theory that the accuser had been extensively coached by his mother.

Defense attorney Robert Sanger argued that the prosecution was simply trying to get in the video to "leave the bell ringing in the jury's ears."

Sanger told the judge that if he allows the boy's videotape, then the defense will probably call the boy back to the stand. The accuser, a cancer survivor, testified in early March.

The judge also rejected a prosecution request to allow documents from the early 1990s case to be introduced. The documents are a Los Angeles Police Department report that include the boy's description and drawings of Jackson's private anatomy, and photographs taken of Jackson's body to locate unusual marks that could be used to confirm the boy's allegation.

The defense objected to the documents, which it described as an attempt to shock jurors. It also argued that it could not cross-examine the boy, who did not testify at this trial.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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