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Archive for Thursday, May 26, 2005

People in the news

May 26, 2005

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Defense rests its case in Michael Jackson trial

Santa Maria, Calif. - The defense rested Wednesday in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial without putting the pop star on the stand, wrapping up after a three-week effort to portray the accuser and his mother as shakedown artists.

Prosecutors immediately began their rebuttal. The jury could get the case as early as the middle of next week and begin deciding whether Jackson molested a 13-year-old cancer patient at his Neverland ranch in 2003.

Defense lawyers portrayed Jackson as the victim of trumped-up charges brought by the boy's mother when she realized that the family's days of living lavishly at Jackson's expense were about to end. A series of witnesses described the mother as a grifter and a welfare cheat who made a career out of hitting up celebrities for money.

The defense took only three weeks to attack a case prosecutors spent nearly 10 weeks laying out.

Initially, the defense case was projected to last up to eight weeks, with a celebrity-studded witness list some 300 names long, including Elizabeth Taylor, Stevie Wonder and Kobe Bryant. But only a few celebrities were called, among them Jay Leno and Macaulay Culkin. Jackson did not take the stand, either, despite his lawyers' hints at the start of the trial that he might do so.

Comedian Chris Tucker, star of the "Rush Hour" movies, was the final defense witness Wednesday. He said he found the accuser to be unusually cunning for a 12-year-old after meeting the boy at a benefit while the child was battling cancer in 2001.

Tucker said his suspicions about the family set in when they came to the set of a movie he was filming in Las Vegas and refused to leave. He said he paid for their hotel and expenses, but after several weeks they were still there.

Tucker said that under pressure from the family he arranged a private flight to Miami for them after they discovered that Jackson was there, and in Florida he took Jackson aside and warned him to be wary of the family.

Prosecutors cast Jackson, 46, as a pedophile with a history of fondling boys, including the cancer survivor in February or March 2003 at Neverland. Jackson also is charged with giving the boy alcohol and conspiring to hold his family captive to get them to rebut a TV documentary that recounted Jackson's penchant for letting children sleep in his bed.

Carrie bests Bo in 'American Idol' contest

Los Angeles - Carrie Underwood, the country sweetheart who beguiled national television audiences with her strong voice and bright smile, is this year's "American Idol," defeating Southern rocker Bo Bice in the show's finale Wednesday night.

The Oklahoma native received more viewer votes than runner-up Bice, of Alabama, after Tuesday's final round, snaring the title and a record contract.

A tearful Underwood choked out a brief "thank you," then spoke with a song. She reprised "Inside Your Heaven," which both she and Bice performed in Tuesday's final round. The judges thought Bice outsang her; the voting audience obviously disagreed.

Backstage, Underwood savored her victory and what could follow.

"This is the best night of my life. And it's going to get better," she said.

The singer added that she's ready for the pressures of a music career and won't disappoint her fans: Country music is where she intends to make her name.

"That's where my heart is. I feel like that's the music that's the most pure. And the people, the artists, are so nice. ... Those are the people I want to be among," she said.

Bice said he was satisfied with the outcome and the experience.

"It doesn't get any better," he said. He had entered the "Idol" contest on a bet with his mom, expecting only that the exposure might get him better gigs back home. Turns out the payoff will be bigger. "We can look forward to an album coming out soon, so keep your eyes open," he said.

Bice, 29, of Helena, Ala., would have been the oldest "Idol" winner. He brought an unexpected rock edge to the show's usually mainstream pop style, shining on songs such as the 1970s hit "Vehicle."

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