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Jackson jury completes first day of deliberations


SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Jurors in the Michael Jackson molestation case ended their first full day of deliberations without reaching a verdict, but the bulk of action was outside the courtroom yesterday.

The crowd of fans increased steadily and the tension among the estimated 1,200 members of the media grew throughout the day.

Amid the hoopla, Joe Jackson, the singer's father, set off a minor fracas during an unscheduled appearance at the courthouse, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson condemned authorities for prosecuting the pop star.

Michael Jackson reportedly spent the day at his Neverland ranch, recuperating from back spasms that sent him to a local hospital for treatment over the weekend.

At 9:50 a.m., the jury sent a question to Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville, who consulted the prosecution and defense, media pool coordinator Peter Shaplen said.

No details about the question were released. Melville's practice is to handle such questions in chambers, Shaplen said.

Attorney Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., who represents a group of media outlets including the Los Angeles Times, filed motions seeking a transcript of the closed proceedings. Last week he also filed a motion seeking a transcript of a closed hearing apparently held on May 23 reportedly "related to potential juror misconduct."

No other details were available.

Jackson, 46, is charged with molesting a 13-year-old boy in early 2003 at Neverland. He also is charged with giving the boy alcohol to aid in the molestation and with conspiring with aides to control the family so that they would participate in a favorable interview.

If convicted on all charges, Jackson could be sentenced to more than 18 years in prison.

Over the weekend, Jackson was treated for back problems and released from Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital. It was the third time since the trial began in February that Jackson has gone to the hospital.

In recent days, Jackson has appeared ever more gaunt as stress from the 14-week trial has built. Last week, his aides said he had sought medical care mid-week from fatigue, although no details were available.

Jackson was not present during deliberations.

The fan vigil at the courthouse reached about 200 people at its peak. More than 2,000 credentials have been issued for the media and an estimated 1,200 journalists seemed to be swarming at the site.

The biggest event of the morning was the unexpected arrival of Joe Jackson, Michael's father, at an entrance that has not been used by any of the family.

It was unknown why the elder Jackson had arrived, but he left about 30 minutes later.

According to court officials, Melville was annoyed at the breakdown of decorum as the media chased Joe Jackson.

The judge had said he would allow a live audio feed of the verdict so that journalists outside the courtroom can hear the result as it is given. But there were some fears among the media that the judge might change his mind because of the Joe Jackson incident.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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