Jackson's former wife testifies in abuse trial

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The Independent US

Michael Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe took the stand in the singer's child molestation trial yesterday in what was expected to be the climax of the prosecution's presentation of almost two months of evidence.

Michael Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe took the stand in the singer's child molestation trial yesterday in what was expected to be the climax of the prosecution's presentation of almost two months of evidence.

Ms Rowe's appearance provided the trial with one of its few genuine frissons of suspense, since only the prosecution lawyers - and perhaps not even they - knew what she might say.

She is the mother of Mr Jackson's first two children - Prince Michael, 8, and Paris, 7 - and has been embroiled in a bitter custody dispute in which she has sought to regain the visitation rights she relinquished for money in the wake of the couple's divorce in 1999.

Most pertinent to the case is Ms Rowe's appearance in a video praising Mr Jackson. She is expected to say her appearance in the video was less than entirely voluntary - something that the prosecution hopes will lend credence to their contention that the family of the alleged child abuse victim was coerced into making a video praising Mr Jackson.

The defence fought tooth and nail to keep Ms Rowe off the stand, saying she was not relevant and could only prejudice the jury because of her personal grievances against her ex-husband.

In her testimony yesterday, she said she had known Mr Jackson for 20 years before they married - she was a nurse to one of his plastic surgeons - and intimated that theirs was not a marriage in the conventional sense. "We never shared a home," she told the jury.

To long-standing Jackson watchers, Ms Rowe has always been something of a mystery. Did she agree to bear the singer's children under a contractual arrangement, or was there something more substantial to their relationship?

As the trial reaches its pivotal point - with the defence about to take over from the prosecution - the battle of the admissibility of evidence has reached fever pitch. Mr Jackson's lawyers filed for a mistrial yesterday, arguing that the prosecution improperly questioned a videographer who shot the so-called "rebuttal video".

Mr Jackson is accused of molesting Gavin on at least two occasions, as well as giving him alcohol and showing him and his younger brother explicit pornography. Mr Jackson denies all charges - something he may have an opportunity to do himself if his lead lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, calls him as a witness.

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