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Jackson’s accuser musttestify in open court

Judge also admonishes pop star's lawyer for comments made
/ Source: The Associated Press

Michael Jackson’s young accuser will have to testify against the pop star in open court when he takes the stand in the singer’s child molestation trial.

Judge Rodney S. Melville rejected a request from prosecutors Friday that the courtroom be cleared of reporters and the public when the boy, 15, and his brother, 14, testify. Prosecutors said they wanted the testimony closed to protect the children from intense media coverage, proposing that reporters listen through an audio feed.

The defense and a coalition of news organizations, including The Associated Press, had argued that the testimony should be open.

Jackson attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. said the children did not need their identities protected because they had previously testified before a grand jury and appeared in a British documentary about Jackson that aired on ABC-TV in 2003.

The boys “are not exactly innocent little lambs,” Mesereau said.

Melville admonished Mesereau to stick to legal arguments rather than giving opinions about the children.

Melville also ruled that dozens of adult books, magazines and DVDs seized at Jackson’s Neverland ranch — one with the fingerprints of Jackson and the accuser — can be used as evidence.

However, the judge said the prosecution could not refer to the material as pornography, obscenity or erotic. Instead, the words “adult” or “sexually explicit” can be used, he said.

Mesereau said all the materials seized were legal. In the case of the magazine with the prints, he said evidence will show Jackson took it away from his accuser and locked it up.

Prosecutor Ron Zonen said the items will show Jackson had a “prurient interest” in boys.

Jackson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to charges of molesting a 13-year-old boy and giving him alcohol. The boy is now 15.

Jury selection begins Monday and could last as long as a month. Lawyers said the trial could take five more months.

The judge said Friday that once a jury is seated, he will release the indictment, grand jury transcripts and possibly some police reports.

Also Friday, Melville said jurors will be allowed to see the British documentary, which contains footage of Jackson and his accuser holding hands and Jackson defending his practice of sharing his bed with children.

Melville refused to bar prosecutors from calling Martin Bashir, the journalist who did the documentary, as a witness.

Bashir’s lawyer, Theodore Boutrous Jr., argued that Bashir was protected by the First Amendment and California’s shield law from having to testify about the documentary, “Living With Michael Jackson.”

Boutrous also represents The Associated Press and other media in efforts to broaden media access.