Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Army of Jackson Fans at Court for Sex Trial; CELEBRITY CASE SET TO ECLIPSE O. J. SIMPSON'S AS TWO BILLION PREPARE TO TUNE IN

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Army of Jackson Fans at Court for Sex Trial; CELEBRITY CASE SET TO ECLIPSE O. J. SIMPSON'S AS TWO BILLION PREPARE TO TUNE IN

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES LANGTON

FANS from around the world have gathered outside the courthouse where Michael Jackson is today on trial for child abuse.

At least 1,000 members of the media are in California with the fans - many of whom are from Europe - for what has already been called the "trial of the century".

The courthouse in Santa Maria has been swamped ahead of the case with a worldwide audience estimated at two billion. Journalists are fighting for six seats in the court and a limited number of places in an overflow room where proceedings will be shown live on video.

Lurid reports of "erotic material" seized from the 46-yearold's Neverland Ranch and a dramatic video appeal yesterday by Jackson, in which he labels the allegations "disgusting and false", means the case will eclipse the OJ Simpson murder trial for celebrity firepower.

Lawyers for both sides will begin quizzing the first of up to 750 potential jurors, with opening statements unlikely to be heard for at least a month.

But the main activity was outside the courthouse where some of the star's most ardent supporters told how they had given up their jobs to attend the trial.

A Swiss fan, Chantal, told how she had quit her insurance job to support her hero and planned to get work as a waitress to support herself. Insisting on his innocence, she said: "He loves children. That has nothing to do with being a paedophile."

Pamela Goldfinch, 18, and her mother Yvonne, 45, from Worthing, West Sussex, have flown to the US for a week to back the King of Pop. Pamela, draped in an "innocent until proven guilty" banner, said: "Michael has not been convicted of any crime but the media seem to be portraying him in a negative light."

As the town moves to cash in, hotels and bars have stocked up on drink and residents are hiring out their homes as internet ready offices. …

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