Prosecutors off the Hook for NV Raid? Not So Fast – MJEOL Bullet #185 UPDATE2 Initial reports had us fuming over the “decision” made by Judge Rodney Meillve in the Jackson “case”. However, other information is filtering in which provides a wider scope of just what happened in court today.

The AP is reporting that Judge Melville in the Michael Jackson “case” has let prosecutors off the hook for violating the gag order. This is inexplicable to a number of courtroom observers because it’s quite clear Tom Sneddon was on a discussion panel discussing the Jackson “case”. Other reports also state that Melville has made a “tentative” ruling about some of the so-called “evidence”/property taken from Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. While other reports from correspondents in Santa Maria say that the judge’s ruling was a win for Jackson’s side because the judge did decided that the majority of property taken was off-limits to prosecutors.

Melville has “tentatively” sided with the defense and has ruled to keep most of the information taken from Jackson’s Neverland Ranch off-limits to prosecutors; some 70 items will not be usable by prosecutors. For a minute there, we thought he had taken the denials of the parties involved over the actual evidence presented by Jackson’s attorneys in court. And we all know cops never lie, don’t we? *rolling eyes*

Initial reports said that Melville will allow some information in but had “concerns” about other information that could be covered by attorney-client privilege that was taken from Jackson’s home. That information, apparently, was deemed off-limits to prosecutors.

Some of the alleged “evidence” that the defense and prosecutors were arguing over includes a financial magazine, The Robb Report, with Muhammad Al Fayed’s number on it, and a videotape of the accuser’s family exonerating Jackson. Not exactly what one would call a “smoking gun” against the defense. Questions about Melville first started to creep up when he denied what most—and even the Appeal’s Court—regarded as an unconstitutional bail. Instead of lowering the bail, he upheld it only to have the Appeal’s Court send the case back to him for an explanation as to why the bail hasn’t been lowered yet. As reported earlier, one courtroom observer outright said that the judge would have to have ties to the prosecution for there not to be repercussions for prosecutors’ behavior in this “case” thus far. Looks like that opinion may be more telling that I first realized. Reuters is reporting that the decision came after a week-long hearing “battling” over property taken from Jackson’s house and a defense attorney’s private investigator’s office. He hasn’t yet ruled on the information taken from the private investigator’s office. The judge is reported to have “concerns” about other items and may suppress them, but won’t issue a final ruling until September, after the accuser’s mother testifies. He did say none of his rulings thus far are final. And a report from another news source, The Herald Sun, provides more detail and a totally different outlook on what happened in court today. In an article entitled “[Jackson] in early win on evidence” dated August 23, 2004, they say that the judge HAS decided that some of Jackson’s property is out and thus, off-limits to prosecutors:

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… 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. (see [Jackson] in early win on evidence)

However, an early AP report dated August 23 2004 told a different story, only focusing on what the judge approved instead of what he didn’t:

SANTA MARIA, Calif. — The judge in the Michael Jackson child molestation case issued tentative rulings Monday admitting 39 pieces of evidence seized in a search of Jackson’s Neverland estate and suggesting he will throw out a number of unspecified items . All items of evidence were identified only by numbers in court and most of them were shrouded in secrecy… Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville said he was “concerned” about 12 items taken during the Neverland search. The numbers he used indicated those included documents potentially covered by attorney-client privilege. The judge said he also was inclined to suppress from evidence a number of items he did not list and no hints were given as to what they contained. But he said none of his rulings was final and he would give the defense and prosecution the opportunity to present legal arguments in written briefs and at the next series of court hearings on Sept. 16 and 17. (see Judge Makes Evidentiary Rulings In Michael Jackson Case (Aug 23 04))

Questions were raised about whether or not you can cherry-pick what information to let in and what information to keep out, which is the result of an unlawful search. Either it’s all in or it’s all out. And given the allegedly “damning” evidence that has turned out to be non-evidence for prosecutors, one has to wonder whether this is actual “evidence” or simply more of Jackson’s personal property. More Robb Report magazines maybe? Some observers say it looks like what may have also happened is that prosecutors labeled certain material as “evidence” when it was simply some of Jackson’s personal property which may never have been used in court by either side; ie that Robb Report magazine. If the AP and Reuters reports are accurate, the judge must really be creating his own law. He would have to agree that the search was unlawful in some way if he is even considering suppressing ANY of it. So this would mean the search is unlawful. A judge can’t go behind prosecutors and police to clean-up their mistakes (or lies). It is absolutely not allowed. Either the report is flawed, or the judge is off his rocker. If The Herald Sun report is accurate—it, by the way, provides more specific detail—then the judge may not be totally off his rocker after-all. He may have actually gone through the information, separated out what came from which raid, and threw out the information for which there was an illegal search. With regards to the gag order, Melville in the past has admonished Jackson for releasing a statement on his website not even related to this case. In response to someone leaking sealed court documents to Diane Dimond about the 93 settlement agreement, and the god-awful and erroneous initial reports about it, Jackson released a statement addressing the jury-tainting lies. As a result, Melville is said to have “admonished” Jackson and his attorney about the gag order. But, for whatever reason, the judge has decided that the current DA talking about this “case”—and how he sends letters out to people to keep them off tv—should get a free pass, according to a report from the AP. Apparently it’s ok to violate the gag order as long as you don’t know a reporter is in the room watching you do it. Leave it up to law enforcement of Santa Barbara to take advantage of loop holes in a gag order they crafted. It’s quite clear the prosecution is not playing by the rules. Maybe Jackson’s defense team should take a lesson from that… Stay tuned for updates as we await further word of just what happened in court today. -MJEOL

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