UPDATED 2:37 ET
After Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen wailed on Michael Jackson in the prosecution’s closing argument yesterday, lead Jackson defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr.’s began his final defense of the beleaguered King of Pop.
“This is not a popularity contest between lawyers. This is about the life, the future, the freedom and the reputation of Michael Jackson. That’s what is about to be placed in your hands,” Mesereau told jurors.
Mesereau attacked Zonen by name, saying his tactics were “abusive, mean-spirited and having nothing to do with looking for the truth.”
“They have dirtied him [Jackson] up because he’s human. But they haven’t proven their case because they can’t,” said the defense attorney.
Mesereau said three of the five boys mentioned by the prosecution in order to establish a pattern of abuse denied they were abused. “They brought in alleged victims from the ’90s — three of them came in here and said nothing happened — because they’re desperate. They’re absolutely desperate.”
Mesereau called the accuser’s family, the Arvisos, “con artists, actors and liars.”
“This is a family where children have been taught to con and children have been taught to lie. The whole family has difficulties with the truth, difficulties with honesty, difficulties with money — and they’ve been raised that way.”
“They’d like you to think it was Michael Jackson taking these innocent little lambs and corrupting them,” Mesereau said, referring to the accuser and his younger brother, “and it’s all baloney.”
“He [the accuser] was very young, he was very street smart, he had been schooled by his parents. This served as a looking glass for everything that followed.”
Mesereau attacked his accuser’s honesty, saying that a lawsuit in which his family received $32,000 from J.C. Penney began when the boy was caught shoplifting.
Mesereau said the real issue was “whether the accuser’s family was credible,” and raged against the prosecutor’s claim that the boy’s mother, Janet Arviso, wasn’t out for money.
“She gets to know you, she hugs you, she loves you. Then she tells you a tale of woe and she gets money.”
“She just needs one thing: you to convict Michael. You have the power to make them rich and they’ll never have to work a day in their lives.” “The first step [to a lawsuit] is a conviction in this courtroom, by you. There’s going to be a great celebration in Los Angeles if he’s convicted of even one count.”
“They want the taxpayers of this county to establish liability for them,” Mesereau said. “For this to happen, you have to label him a convict. You have to label him a sex offender. You have to label him everything he is not.”
Jackson was an easy mark, Mesereau said. “He has a reputation or being a very childlike person. Very naive, a musical genius, a person who attracted millions of dollars before he knew what it meant.” Jackson is, Mesereau said, a celebrity “with a history of being taken advantage of,” a man “whose generosity knows no bounds. He took them into Neverland and he took care of them.”
“Does he [Jackson] look like the kind of person who is even capable of masterminding this kind of criminal conspiracy?” Mesereau asked. “It’s absurd.”
“Remember their basic claim is that he is akin to a monster. That he would take a cancer patient and see him as a target. … Does what you’ve seen in this trial reflect that? Is it even possible? It’s not.”
“If you do not believe [the family] beyond a reasonable doubt, Mr. Jackson must be acquitted. That’s the law,” Mesereau said.
“If you have the slightest suspicion, Mr. Jackson must go home, he must go free.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, it only takes one lie under oath to throw this case out of court,” Mesereau said to the jurors. “You can’t count all the lies under oath by [the Arvisos]. How many does it take to let you know this case is a fraud?”
“What they are trying to do to Michael Jackson is so horrible, so brutal, so potentially devastating to him that we have a very high standard,” Mesereau said. “You must under this legal system throw this case where it belongs, out the door.”
“This has been a nightmare for Mr. Jackson,” the attorney concluded.
The jury will begin deliberations today.