Jackson's former wife defies lawyers with glowing tribute

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Michael Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe was supposed to provide the final one-two punch in the prosecution's child molestation case against the singer.

Michael Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe was supposed to provide the final one-two punch in the prosecution's child molestation case against the singer.

But yesterday she turned instead into the state's worst nightmare as she unleashed a paean of praise for her former husband, describing him as a good father who was "brilliant" with kids.

To the delight of the defence, which tried and failed to prevent her testifying at all, Ms Rowe departed drastically from the testimony expected by the prosecution. Instead of saying that her public statements about Mr Jackson were coerced and scripted, she told the court she had always spoken her mind freely.

At times she even sought to address Mr Jackson directly, saying she still regarded him as her friend and was anxious to resume contact with him after a long estrangement.

Her three hours on the stand, on top of about half an hour on Wednesday afternoon, were little short of a rout for the prosecution. The best that Santa Barbara County district attorney Tom Sneddon can now argue is that she made an 11th-hour decision to defend Mr Jackson in order to protect the two children that they share.

Whatever the motivation for the turnaround, it has left an already shaky prosecution case in virtual tatters. Asked to describe Mr Jackson, she said: "Generous to a fault, good father, great with kids, puts other people ahead of him. Brilliant businessman."

Asked to account for the multiple accusations he faces, she responded: "There's different Michaels. There's like my Michael and the Michael that everyone else sees."

Two years ago, Ms Rowe was invited to take part in a so-called "rebuttal video" to shore up Mr Jackson's faltering public image in the wake of the airing of Martin Bashir's documentary "Living With Michael Jackson", in which the star freely admitted his proclivity for sharing his bed with pre-pubescent boys.

The prosecution had hoped to demonstrate that Ms Rowe's participation in the video was coerced, and thereby bolster a similar contention from the family of Gavin Arvizo, the 15-year-old recovered cancer victim Mr Jackson is accused of molesting around the time the rebuttal video was shot.

But Ms Rowe told the listening court the precise opposite of thay. "As Mr Jackson knows, no one can tell me what to say. I speak my own mind," she said. "It was a cold [unscripted] interview, and I wanted to keep it that way."

She gave the prosecution only occasional glimmers of hope. While she said her answers in the video were spontaneous, she said they were not entirely truthful. She also said that she never shared a home with Mr Jackson ­ suggesting their marriage may have been one of convenience more than love.

In her relatively brief appearance on the stand on Wednesday afternoon, however, she refused to be drawn into details on either of these points. "My personal life is my personal life and no one's business," she said.

The prosecution has only a few more days to run before the defence takes controlBy near-unanimous consent, the most damaging testimony against Mr Jackson related to allegations of past sexual misconduct with prepubescent boys, some of it dating back 15 years.

The allegation that he molested Gavin Arvizo in the wake of the Martin Bashir documentary stands on considerably shakier ground, however, because of a lack of details, many inconsistencies in the witnesses' accounts and their track record of lying and causing trouble in the courts. Mr Jackson has denied all wrong-doing.