The star makes eye contact in the courtroom with those who may decide his fate

By Ron Arias Stephen M. Silverman
February 01, 2005 08:00 AM

Day one of the Michael Jackson trial saw the main attraction arriving early to the Santa Maria, Calif., courthouse in a black SUV, from which he emerged in apparent good spirits and in control.

Wearing a white suit with a gold armband, Jackson, acknowledging a group of cheering fans police said numbered about 250, flashed the victory sign, waved and smiled from under an umbrella before continuing on his way.

Inside the courtroom of Judge Rodney S. Melville, after shaking hands with the court clerk, Jackson – who has pleaded not guilty to a 10-count felony charge relating to his alleged molestation of a then-13-year-old cancer patient – sat back in his chair at the defense table, looking at ease and talking with his lawyer, Thomas Messereau.

As the prospective jurors filed in, Jackson, 46, stood up and maintained eye contact with most of those who were staring at him. “He was very toned down and respectful,” former San Francisco prosecutor and FOX TV legal analyst Jim Hammer tells PEOPLE. “No more moonwalking on the roof of a car,” he added, referring to Jackson’s showing off for fans at his arraignment last year.

“I was somewhat surprised that one prosecutor alone was at the prosecution table as opposed to four on the defense team,” Hammer continued. “If (Santa Barbara District Attorney) Tom Sneddon is going to take part in the case, you’d expect him to be at the table to introduce himself to the jury.”

Jury selection in the case is expected to take as long as a month. The dozen jurors who eventually will serve on what will likely be a six-month trial are being culled from a 750-person pool. Court sources say the trial is tentatively scheduled to get under way on Feb. 28.