[Jackson] in early win – Mercury News

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[Jackson] in early win 24aug04 THE judge in pop icon Michael Jackson’s child abuse case tentatively ruled today that scores of items of evidence seized at his Neverland Ranch could not be used against him in evidence. Judge Rodney Melville made the preliminary ruling on the fifth and final day of a hearing in Santa Maria, California. The “King of Pop’s” lawyers had argued for key pieces of evidence to be discounted ahead of his trial in a bid to weaken the prosecution case. The judge’s decision came after prosecutors called two final witnesses in an attempt to rebut claims by defence lawyers and members of Jackson’s staff that investigators overstepped the authority of their search warrant when they swooped on his ranch last November. The judge said that of 120 items of evidence Jackson’s defence team wanted thrown out, he was inclined to disallow more than 70 of them from trial. He said that unless prosecutors and defence lawyers convinced him otherwise in written arguments, he would allow the trial jury to see only 34 pieces of the contested evidence. “I am making this tentative ruling for the purpose of arguments and objections,” the judge told the court at the end of the marathon pre-trial hearing. “It is my intent to suppress the remaining material.” He added that he wanted to see written arguments on whether eight other items seized in the Neverland swoop had been taken legally in order for him to decide whether to admit them into evidence. Lawyers for both sides have until September 3 to submit their arguments ahead of the next hearing in the case, scheduled for September 16. Jackson’s much-anticipated trial is scheduled for January 30. Jackson’s team contend that police and prosecution investigators seized evidence in areas of Neverland that they were not entitled to under the terms of the search warrant executed the day before Jackson’s November 19 arrest on child molestation charges. But journalists and legal observers present in court in Santa Maria, near Neverland, were left guessing as to the significance of the evidence tentatively thrown out by the judge today. Much of the meat of the case has been obscured from public view by a strict veil of secrecy that had kept documents, including details of the charges against Jackson, under court seal. Jackson, 45, has pleaded innocent to a 10-count indictment that includes charges of child molestation, giving alcohol to a minor, as well as conspiracies to kidnap, illegally imprison and extort his alleged victim, who was 12 at the time. :nav Source: [url=http://www.themercury.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,10551624%255E10431,00.html]http://www.themercury.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,10551624%255E10431,00.html[/url]

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