Media outlets push for better access

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Media outlets push for better access By Quintin Cushner/Staff Writer Several media outlets are asking a Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge to either modify or reverse his decision to ban cameras in the courtroom where Michael Jackson will be arraigned Friday. The media group, who call themselves “the access proponents,” filed a motion Wednesday asking Judge Rodney Melville to allow both a television and still camera into the courtroom during the proceedings. On Monday, Melville denied requests by numerous media outlets, including the Santa Maria Times, to allow cameras into the Jackson hearing. An attorney for the “access proponents” cited California Rule 980, which lists 19 factors judges can consider when deciding if cameras should be permitted in the courtroom. The proponents’ petition cites the “importance of maintaining public trust and confidence” and “maintaining public access” to the justice system among factors supporting having cameras in the courtroom. The document also argued that disallowing visual access to Jackson would cause more people to turn up at the courtroom to see the trial for themselves, causing “administrative or financial burden(s) to the court” and “interference with neighboring courtrooms,” both of which are factors listed in Rule 980. On Tuesday, attorneys for the “access proponents” filed a reply to Jackson Attorney Mark Geragos, who successfully argued that sealed search warrant materials in the case be provided to the defense before they were accessible to the general public. In the reply, the “access proponents” argued that the California legislature “never intended the kind of defense counsel-only sneak preview of documents related to a search warrant,” and that the materials should be available to everyone. Also on Wednesday, District Attorney Tom Sneddon filed a motion defending his request for a protective “gag” order against opposing motions filed separately by Geragos and the media earlier this week. In his motion, Sneddon argued that the First Amendment does not protect the media’s right to speak with participants in a criminal proceeding. He also argued that if parties are permitted to speak about the case outside of court, it could prejudice the jury pool. Hearings regarding the warrant materials and the protective order are scheduled for Friday morning. Jackson, 45, is accused of engaging in lewd acts with the boy – identified in the court filings only as “John Doe” – on seven occasions between Feb. 7 and March 20. He also is charged with two counts of “administering an intoxicating agent” – reportedly wine – to enable and assist him with the alleged molestations. * Staff writer Quintin Cushner can be reached at 739-2217 or by e-mail at Jan. 15, 2004 :nav Source:

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