One year on, Michael Jackson case still \'mystery theatre\' (Nov 18 2004)


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One year on, Michael Jackson case still 'mystery theatre'

Thu Nov 18, 7:31 PM ET U.S. National - AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - One year after the dramatic arrest of pop superstar Michael Jackson for child molestation, details of one of the most scrutinized criminal cases in the world remain largely a mystery.

AFP/File Photo

Despite acres of newspaper coverage and endless analysis, details of the complex charges against Jackson remain sealed under a gag order, which has sparked a running battle between the US criminal justice system and the voracious US media.

"It's like watching mystery theatre," said Loyola Marymount law professor Laurie Levenson, who has followed the case since Jackson was arrested in the California town of Santa Barbara on November 19, 2003.

"It's impossible to predict the outcome. I don't even know what the prosecution aims to prove and what evidence they have to prove it," she told AFP two months ahead of the scheduled start of the trial on January 31.

News that a posse of police had swooped on Jackson's palatial Neverland Ranch, which lies in the picturesque countryside north of Santa Barbara, stunned the world on November 18 last year.

Prosecutors and police announced that the billionaire "King of Pop" was wanted on suspicion of sexually abusing a young boy at Neverland in February and March of 2003.

The following day, Jackson, sporting full make-up and wearing a black velvet jacket, flew in from Las Vegas on a private jet for the ignominy of being hand-cuffed, arrested, fingerprinted and photographed by police.

As hundreds of reporters teemed outside the sheriff's office beaming live television pictures to the world, he was released on three million dollars' bail, proclaiming his innocence and insisting the allegations were part of a plot to extort him.

His accuser was later revealed to be a 12-year-old cancer patient who the Peter Pan-like Jackson had befriended. The boy, whose name has not been officially released, allegedly told a therapist that he had been sexually abused by the entertainment icon.

Since then, Jackson, 46, has been charged twice and has twice denied the allegations.

When he appeared in court in January 16, he famously turned the proceedings into a circus when he danced on top of his car to the screams of thousands of fans.

A grand jury in April issued a ten-count indictment against him, which replaced the initial charges.

On April 30, the former child star pleaded innocent to 10 charges including child molestation, plying a minor with alcohol in order to seduce him and conspiracies to kidnap, illegally imprison and extort his alleged victim or his family.

But while the broad substance of the sensational allegations has occupied front pages and clogged the airways for 12 months, little is known about them.

After months of pre-trial hearings in Santa Maria, all that has emerged from the tightly-guarded case are the claims that Jackson indecently assaulted the boy and then, along five with unnamed co-conspirators, plotted to keep the boy, his mother and his younger brother from spilling the beans.

The still-murky details of the conspiracy charges are key to the entire prosecution case and could see Jackson jailed for a long time if convicted, legal experts said.

"This is the first case I have seen where we have not seen the entire indictment," Levenson said.

Trial Judge Rodney Melville has slapped a strict gag order on the case, sealing virtually all documents linked to it and barring prosecutors, Jackson's lawyers, police and other investigators from discussing it.

"I respect the court for safeguarding the right to a fair trial, but I think this one has gone a little overboard," she said.

While news organisations have hired tireless lawyers to rip through the veil of secrecy, the specifics of the allegations remain a mystery.

The conflict has pitted two crucial US constitutional rights against one another: that of the freedom of the press and the right of a defendant's right to a fair trial.

The furore has also raised the question of whether it is possible to find an unprejudiced jury to decide whether a famous celebrity committed of a horrifying crime.

"This case is very high-profile and very complex, but I think that the criminal justice system can work. There will more spectacles and distractions, but justice can be done," Levenson said.

Judge Melville has said he wants jury selection for the trial to begin on January 31, but Levenson said a delay was "very possible" given the welter of evidence and thousands of pages of documents involved in the case.


Tiger Lilly

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Originally posted by dangerous
Judge Melville has said he wants jury selection for the trial to begin on January 31, but Levenson said a delay was "very possible" given the welter of evidence and thousands of pages of documents involved in the case.
What, the results of Sneddon's fishing trips, which mostly consist of going through Michael's money? He needs more than that. Where's the proof that Michael's a peadophile? He's supposed to "proove beyond all reasonable doubt that the alleged crime occured." So far I've heard nothing to make me think any differently of the man I believe in.

:sneddoncr <---Sneddon. :D