February 9, 2005
LOS ANGELES - News organizations covering the Michael Jackson trial are seeking an end to the secrecy surrounding key aspects of the case, including the grand jury indictment describing the pop singer's alleged crimes.
On Wednesday, a lawyer for The Associated Press and other news outlets covering the case will ask a three-judge panel of the state's 2nd District Court of Appeal to lift the gag order on attorneys in the case, and to end the practice of holding hearings in secret.
Attorney Theodore Boutrous will also ask for the release of several documents that have not been publicly released, or have been released only in heavily redacted form. Those include the indictment, several motions and search warrants, including the warrant for the search of Jackson's Neverland Ranch in November 2003.
Boutrous said the level of secrecy surrounding the case has been unprecedented and has limited the public's ability to see if justice is being served.
"We think these are very important issues for the public and its right of access to the criminal justice system," said Boutrous, who also represents ABC, CNN, CBS, Fox News, Los Angeles Times, NBC, The New York Times, USA Today and The Washington Post.
Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville has said he wants to keep certain documents sealed to prevent potential jurors from forming opinions about the trial before it begins.
Attorneys were scheduled to begin questioning potential jurors Monday about any potential biases, but the screening was delayed by a week because of the death of lead defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr.'s sister.
Jackson, 46, is charged with molesting a 13-year-old former cancer patient. He is also charged with giving the boy alcohol and conspiring to hold him and his family captive.
The superstar has pleaded not guilty to the charges and recently issued statements saying he expects to be acquitted.