Hot-button issues to come at Friday hearing – Santa Maria Times

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Hot-button issues to come at Friday hearing By Quintin Cushner/Staff Writer Friday’s hearing in the Michael Jackson child-molestation case could feature some contentious moments as the defense argues for a reduction in the singer’s bail and for better access to evidence. A grand jury indicted the singer on April 21, charging him with 10 felony counts involving the alleged abuse of a Los Angeles County boy, referred to as “John Doe.” Jackson, 45, has pleaded not guilty to engaging in lewd acts with the boy on four occasions between Feb. 7 and March 20, 2003, and four counts of “administering an intoxicating agent” – reportedly wine – to help him with the alleged molestations. He also has pleaded not guilty to a conspiracy charge involving child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion and a count of attempted child molestation. The pop singer, who will not appear at Friday’s hearing, owns the 2,700 acre Neverland Ranch near Los Olivos, where the incidents allegedly occurred. On Friday, lead defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau, Jr. – assisted by attorneys Steve Cochran, Robert Sanger and Susan Yu – is expected to argue that the $3 million bail Jackson posted when he was arrested in November is too high relative to the severity of the charges he faces. District Attorney Tom Sneddon – who is leading the prosecution with help from senior deputy district attorneys Gerald Franklin, Ron Zonen and Gordon Auchincloss – has argued that a reduction in bail could serve as incentive for Jackson to flee the country. That act would likely prove difficult, however, given that Jackson has surrendered his passport to authorities. Also up for discussion Friday is a defense motion asking that Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville force the prosecution to share “discovery” of evidence in the case, including dozens of witness statements and more than 300 items seized during searches of Jackson’s home and property of his associates. “The prosecution has found the time and effort necessary to prepare for grand jury proceedings, conduct ongoing witness interviews and monitor forensic examination of seized items at the expense of providing timely discovery as the law requires,” the defense argued in the motion. “The failure to complete discovery is inexcusable.” Prosecutors filed a motion refuting the defense, insisting that they have complied with all discovery laws and noting their problems with a request for unsupervised access to physical evidence. They also claimed to have turned over more than 1,000 pages of discovery and more than 50 audio and video tapes, and expressed frustration that the defense chose not to handle its concerns informally. In its motion, the prosecution also acknowledged that “the scope of the investigation in this case is extraordinary and there is little doubt that investigation will continue through trial.” A tentative trial start date in the case may also be set on Friday. In a previous hearing, Santa Maria Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville expressed his wish to start the trial by the end of the year, though that was before the grand jury indictment and the raising of the discovery issue. The prosecution’s request to seal a motion asking to hold an unidentified person in contempt and to seal two search warrants will also be considered on Friday. Also, Attorney Theodore Boutrous, Jr., who is representing a coalition of media organizations, will argue for the unsealing of the grand jury indictment and transcripts, which is opposed by both the defense and prosecution. “Mr. Jackson and the District Attorney have fundamentally misunderstood the traditional role of the press, and subverted the First Amendment and California law,” Boutrous wrote in a motion filed Wednesday. “Their specious arguments should be rejected, and the grand jury indictment and transcripts should be unsealed immediately.” May 27, 2004 Source:

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