July 02. 2004 9:47PM Forums Print this Email this Judge seals critical motion in Michael Jackson case By LINDA DEUTSCH AP Special Correspondent LOS ANGELES The judge in the Michael Jackson child molestation case sealed one of the most critical defense motions in the case without comment Friday, continuing a pattern of secrecy he has imposed throughout the proceedings. The sealing order by Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville came in response to a request from Jackson attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. to keep secret the motion that seeks dismissal of charges against the entertainer. “This is as close to a secret trial as I have ever seen in a high profile case,” said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson. “I challenge anyone to find a case where the most basic motions are off limits.” An attorney representing media organizations including The Associated Press promised to file a motion opposing the action. The ruling means the public will not know on what grounds Jackson is challenging the indictment that charges him with committing a lewd act upon a child, administering alcohol, and conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. Details from the indictment, including exactly what acts Jackson is accused of committing and the names of his alleged co-conspirators, also are being kept secret. Levenson said it amounts to special treatment for Jackson. “Every defendant in the criminal justice system would want to have the benefits that Michael Jackson is receiving,” she said. “No defendant wants to be embarrassed by what’s been alleged in the charges against him. But the Constitution assumes this information will be public except when there is an overriding need.” Mesereau’s motion said sealing was needed “based on the overriding interests of Mr. Jackson’s rights to due process and a fair trial.” The judge’s response said merely that “good cause appearing,” he would seal the motion to set aside the indictment and all accompanying documents. “To seal such a fundamental motion in the case without any explanation flatly violates the First Amendment,” said Theodore Bourtrous Jr., the attorney who is representing The Associated Press and other media organizations. [b]”In this motion Michael Jackson is attacking the prosecution’s entire case and it’s important for the public to understand the nature of those claims and the nature of the indictment,” said Boutrous.[/b] “Think about the consequences if the judge granted the motion and you never saw the indictment that was dismissed.” Boutrous said he would file an opposition to the sealing order before a hearing scheduled for July 9. The latest ruling comes on the heels of a series of orders from Melville sealing some 40 search warrants executed in the case. Melville said he was concerned that anything he revealed would be analyzed and reported by the media and would make it difficult to find an unbiased jury pool in the case. “The fact that the judge wants to keep a lid on the media is not an overriding interest,” said Levenson. “He’s made the media the enemy. The inherent problem is not recognizing the valid function the media serves and the public’s right to know the facts.” “We do not have secret trials in this country,” said Levenson. “It’s not a private affair. Crimes are crimes against the entire society.” :nav Source: http://www.gainesvillesun.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20040702/APN/407021068

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