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Media search for Jackson grand jury

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Posted: Monday, March 29, 2004 2:26 pm

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A grand jury expected to hear evidence in the Michael Jackson child molestation case could not be seen in the main courthouse early Monday.

Court officials had apparently succeeded in preventing reporters and news camera crews covering the case from locating the grand jurors.

Camera trucks roamed Santa Barbara County and reporters called local hotels in a search for the grand jury meeting area, which was expected to shift daily. News crews set up for live shots outside various court branches but acknowledged they didn't know if the grand jury was inside.

Superior Court Judge Clifford R. Anderson III has banned the media from photographing or speaking to grand jurors. Several reporters questioned spouses of prospective grand jurors as they entered an assembly room late last week, and at least one photographer was forced by a deputy to remove images from his digital camera.

An attorney for news organizations including The Associated Press requested the judge vacate or modify the order, calling it unconstitutionally restrictive. Lawyers on Monday were expected to submit suggestions for modifying the judge's sweeping order.

Jackson, whose Neverland estate is in Santa Barbara County, was charged by the district attorney late last year with seven counts of committing lewd or lascivious acts upon a child under age 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent to the child. Jackson has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors are now seeking a grand jury indictment, which would mean they would not have to present evidence at a preliminary hearing to determine if the case should go to trial.

The summons given to grand jurors says they may have to serve up to 90 days.

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