News and Information

Ruling delay on Jackson evidence
January 13, 2005
A judge has delayed a ruling on whether jurors in the upcoming trial of singer Michael Jackson can hear evidence of past allegations of sexual offences.

Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville said he wanted to hear the prosecution's current evidence against the singer before deciding.

But, in a victory for the media, he did say he was unlikely to conduct hearings on the matter behind closed doors.

Michael Jackson, 46, denies 10 counts of child molestation and conspiracy.

He is due to stand trial on 31 January.

Judge Melville said he wanted to make sure the prosecution had enough evidence in its current case against Mr Jackson before deciding whether to allow evidence of any alleged past wrongdoing.

He said he would not even look at the evidence until after the jury had been selected.

Bashir order

Defence lawyers had asked Judge Melville to bar past sex abuse claims, and argued that the prosecution's "inflammatory and unfounded testimony" regarding alleged previous sex crimes could prejudice the jury pool.

The prosecution said it would act "with discretion", and was "acutely concerned" about a fair trial.

Martin Bashir
Bashir's employer, ABC News, says they will fight the court order
A coalition of news organisations also came together arguing that attempts to close the sessions went against a long history of openness in California's courts.

They welcomed the judge's decision on hearing evidence in open court.

"Fame does not give licence to secrecy in the judicial process," said media lawyer Ted Boutrous.

In a separate court document, the judge issued an order for British television presenter and producer Martin Bashir to testify in court on 1 March.

Mr Bashir, now with ABC News, was responsible for making a 2003 documentary about Jackson, which was seen by millions of viewers around the world.

ABC News Vice President Jeffrey Schneider said the network would fight the order, arguing that journalists should not be, or perceived to be, "arms of either the prosecution or defence as they pursue the news".


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