January 31st, 2005…Jury selection began on a Monday in pop singer’s molestation trial.
Michael Jackson issued a video statement Sunday, a day before jury selection begins in his child molestation trial, calling leaks from the grand jury “disgusting and false.”
“Please keep an open mind and let me have my day in court,” he said in the message posted on his Web site. “I will be acquitted and vindicated when the truth is told.”
He added that the proceedings have been “a nightmare for my family.”
Release of the message was approved by Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville.
Jackson, 46, was indicted by a grand jury on four counts of child molestation, four counts of administering an intoxicating agent, one count of attempted child molestation and one count of conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
Earlier this month, ABC News reported details of secret grand jury testimony that included lurid allegations from Jackson’s accuser about what the cancer-stricken boy said happened between him and Jackson behind closed doors at the singer’s Neverland Ranch in early 2003.
Jackson’s attorneys blasted the release of the material, noting that it had been ordered sealed by Melville. They also complained that because grand jury proceedings include the prosecution but not the defense, the accuser’s statements were never subject to challenge during cross-examination.
In his statement, Jackson said the leaked information was “ugly” and “malicious,” and that the grand jury testimony “took place in a proceeding where neither my lawyers nor I ever appeared.”
“Years ago, I allowed a family to visit and spend some time at Neverland,” Jackson said in the video message. “Neverland is my home. I allowed this family into my home because they told me their son was ill with cancer and needed my help. Through the years, I have helped thousands of kids.”
Last week, Melville denied a defense motion to question prospective jurors individually. Defense attorneys had argued that group questioning could contaminate the jury pool.
The accuser and his brother should testify in open court, Melville ruled, but he said he will prohibit sketch artists from drawing them during their testimony.
The prosecution wanted the boys to testify in a separate room without showing their faces in court. Jackson’s attorneys disputed the prosecution’s claim that the boys needed protection from the public eye, saying they had testified in other cases and had recently been spotted shopping in Beverly Hills with the district attorney.
In addition, Melville granted the prosecution’s request to submit adult material seized from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. However, the prosecution cannot refer to the material as “pornography,” “obscene” or “erotic.” Instead, the judge ruled that the district attorney must use the terms “adult” or “sexually explicit.”
He ruled against admitting any material seized outside Neverland Ranch or any materials from a case in 1993, when Jackson faced similar allegations. The self-proclaimed “King of Pop” resolved that case with a multimillion-dollar, out-of-court settlement, and no charges were filed.
The prosecution plans to submit a sexually explicit magazine with the boys’ fingerprints, as well as Jackson’s.
Jackson attorney Brian Oxman said evidence will show his client took the magazine away from the boys, but prosecutor Ron Zonan said that will not explain why there are fingerprints on the inside of the magazine.
This Monday Michael’s first jury hearing began. Michael entered the Santa Maria courthouse at 8:55 a.m. California time.
Michael, dressed in white, smiled and walked into court with his attorney and bodyguard. Before entering the courtroom, Michael met with many of his supporters and waved the victory poster.
From that day on, the selection of the jurors who decided Michael’s charges began. The first group invited to the jury consisted of 150 people who were interviewed in the presence of Michael and his lawyers to verify their notes. These people were to appear in two groups.
Source: Mourad Mesellaty