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Archive for Saturday, June 26, 2004

Jackson judge won’t unseal transcripts

June 26, 2004

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— The judge in the Michael Jackson child molestation case reinforced the wall of secrecy around grand jury transcripts and other evidence Friday and said that trying to ensure a fair trial for such a famous entertainer was "exasperating."

Judge Rodney Melville rebuffed arguments by a media attorney who sought to unseal grand jury transcripts so the public could see whether Jackson was being treated fairly.

In doing so, Melville suggested that celebrity trials such as Jackson's required a different standard than those of average people.

"The difficulty of seeing that an individual in this country gets a fair trial is exasperating when the individual is known around the world," Melville said.

Jackson, 45, has pleaded not guilty to committing a lewd act upon a child, administering alcohol, and conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion.

On Friday, media lawyer Theodore Boutrous Jr. implored Melville to unseal 47 search warrants and the entire grand jury indictment pertaining to Jackson so the public could know the exact charges the entertainer faces and the procedures used to gather evidence.

"The time has come, in this case, to let the sun shine in so the public, and the press as its surrogates, can know what the case is about," said Boutrous, who represents a coalition of media organizations including The Associated Press.

By keeping a tight lid on the case, Boutrous said Melville was allowing Jackson's lawyers to "manage" the release of information, an allegation that brought a harsh response from the judge.

"This is about the court trying to balance First Amendment rights against the rights of Mr. Jackson and the prosecution," Melville said.

"Mr. Boutrous, you know that everything I'm doing is according to the law. I'm being very careful in following the law. Please do not mislead the press about this. I support the First Amendment."

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