Jackson's ex: Comments on video weren't honest
Yet she says they weren't scripted, contradicting prosecutors
SANTA MARIA, California (CNN) -- Michael Jackson's ex-wife testified Wednesday that she was not honest when she praised her former husband as a parent during an interview she gave in February 2003 to help defend him after the broadcast of a damaging television documentary.
However, contradicting earlier statements from the prosecution, Debbie Rowe said her comments in the interview, while not truthful, were also not scripted or rehearsed, and she said she even turned down an offer to see the questions in advance.
"I didn't want anyone to come back to me to say my interview was rehearsed," she said. "No one tells me what to say, as Mr. Jackson knows. I speak my own mind."
Taking the stand in Jackson's child-molestation trial, Rowe -- who at times during her testimony became emotional -- said she was not promised money or any "quid pro quo" for participating in the interview.
However, she said that based on a conversation she had with Jackson, she expected that she was going to get to see him and their two children after the firestorm over the documentary passed.
"I was excited to see Michael and the children," she said. "I promised I would always be there for him and the children."
Rowe said she wanted "to be reintroduced to them and to be reacquainted with their dad."
"He's my friend," she said, and then began to weep.
Although Rowe participated in the interview, a reunion never took place. She told jurors that she last saw her son and daughter -- Prince Michael, 8, and Paris, 7 - nearly three years ago, and that her attempts through the years to get Jackson to let her spend more time with them were rebuffed.
In his opening statement, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas Sneddon charged Rowe's "interview was scripted, and she did a complete rehearsal." He also said her attorney would testify that the camera was turned off so she could be coached between takes.
Monday, in arguing to get Rowe's testimony in front of the jury, prosecutor Ron Zonen described her interview as "highly scripted," echoing charges by the mother of Jackson's accuser that she was pressured into participating in a similar interview defending Jackson.
A grand jury indicted Jackson, 46, last year on charges of molesting a then-13-year-old boy, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold him and his family captive in 2003.
Jackson has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Confidentiality agreement waived
In her testimony Wednesday, Rowe said that after she and Jackson divorced in October 1999, she did not talk to him until February 2003, when he asked her in a telephone call to help him counter the documentary by British journalist Martin Bashir, in which he was shown holding hands with the teenage boy now accusing him of child molestation.
"He told me there was a video coming out, and it was full of lies, and would I help," Rowe said. "As always, I said 'yes.' "
She said she asked Jackson if he and the children were OK, and he assured her they were. She said she also asked him, "Can I see you and the children when it's all over with?" Rowe said Jackson agreed. She said he told her how "beautiful" the children were and that Paris was "strong-headed ... not unlike me."
Rowe said Jackson did not specify how he wanted her to help, telling her only that he wanted her to "work with" three of his associates, including Marc Schaffel, then president of one of Jackson's companies, Neverland Valley Entertainment.
She said she was granted a waiver of the confidentiality agreement she signed when she and Jackson divorced, which prohibited her from making comments about him or the children. Schaffel then arranged for the taping of the interview at his house, she said.
Rowe said the taping took nine hours. At the time, the Bashir documentary had been broadcast in Britain, but not the United States, and she said she was not aware of its contents.
Asked by Zonen if her comments during the interview were truthful, Rowe -- after a long pause -- finally responded, "No."
Asked further if her comments about Jackson's parenting of their children were truthful, she said, "No."
Court ended for the afternoon shortly afterward, before she explained what was untruthful in her remarks about his parenting. She will be back on the stand when court resumes Thursday morning.
Window into relationship
Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville said he would confine Rowe's testimony to the events surrounding her 2003 interview and not allow the questioning to venture into juicier details about her relationship and life with Jackson.
However, a few tidbits about their relationship did emerge Wednesday.
Rowe, who met Jackson when she worked as a nurse for his dermatologist, said she had known him more than 20 years, well before they were married. During their marriage, she said, "We never shared a home."
After their divorce, Jackson retained custody of the children, but she said she was allowed to see them once every 45 days for eight hours, usually in a hotel with their nanny.
However, Rowe said that she often missed her scheduled visits when Jackson was on tour or out of the country, or when she had to work. She was not allowed to make up visits she missed, Rowe said.
In 2001, she finally agreed to give up parental rights, ending her visitation privileges.
But last year, after Jackson was charged with child molestation, Rowe initiated legal proceedings to gain more contact with her children. Rowe and Jackson are negotiating a new custody agreement, with a retired judge overseeing the discussions.