April 27, 2005 05:00 PM

Michael Jackson’s ex-wife and mother of his two eldest children, Debbie Rowe, finally took the stand in his child-molestation trial during the final 35 minutes of Wednesday’s session, giving heartfelt and sometimes dramatic testimony, but leaving a large question mark as to whether she’s helped or hurt the prosecution.

Rowe cried when speaking of her children, often looking directly at her former husband – whom she had not seen since their 1999 divorce.

Wearing a black pantsuit and beige blouse, Rowe said under oath that she was not “scripted” by the Jackson camp when it came to her remarks in a video rebuttal to a damaging British TV documentary in which Jackson defended his practice of sharing his bed with children.

Though Rowe’s testimony did little to bolster the case against the star – and some legal analysts have called her appearance a setback for the prosecution – she did admit Wednesday that she was not truthful when she glowingly described Jackson’s parenting skills in the video. Also, under questioning by Ron Zonen of the prosecution team, Rowe said in a choking voice, “We never shared a home.”

She said she did the video rebuttal, which was an attempt to salvage Jackson’s tarnished reputation, in an attempt to reconnect with Jackson, whom she described as a “friend.”

She also testified that she voluntarily surrendered parental rights and, ultimately, visitation rights, because the 8-hour-long visits every 45 days with her two children “were not comfortable.” She was not asked about the multimillion-dollar settlement she received from Jackson after their divorce. Of her children, whom she hasn’t seen for two years, she said tearfully, “I very much want to see them.”

Rowe and Jackson married in 1996 after they announced that Rowe, who worked as a nurse for Jackson’s plastic surgeon, was carrying his child, Prince Michael, who is now 8 years old. Their other child, Paris, was born a year later. (A third child, Prince Michael II, was born to a surrogate mother in 2002.) All live with Jackson.

In 2001, Rowe surrendered all parental rights but applied for custody of the children in 2003. That legal case – said to be acrimonious between the two sides – has yet to be settled.

Rowe’s testimony is due to resume Thursday.

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