A judge today (Oct. 14) rejected a defense request to throw out the indictment against Michael Jackson, saying prosecutors had presented enough evidence of child molestation and an attempt to silence

A judge today (Oct. 14) rejected a defense request to throw out the indictment against Michael Jackson, saying prosecutors had presented enough evidence of child molestation and an attempt to silence the alleged victim's family for the case to go forward.

Judge Rodney S. Melville rejected arguments that the indictment should be thrown out because of prosecutorial misconduct, improper legal instruction and insufficient evidence. Jackson has pleaded not guilty to child molestation, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol.

The decision came after perhaps the most unusual of a string of media restrictions in the secrecy-shrouded case against the pop star: Reporters and other members of the public were prohibited from talking in court, even before the proceedings.

One fan of Jackson's was tossed by bailiffs for talking to the person next to her moments after she entered the courtroom. Reporters silently scribbled notes to each other, like students in class, as they questioned the legality of the rule.

The bailiffs rescinded the rule after a midmorning break in the hearing, saying there had been a misunderstanding. They did not explain what it was.

The rule was imposed after Santa Maria (Calif.) Times news columnist Steve Corbett spoke with Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Sgt. Ross Ruth about a judge's order barring reporters from conducting interviews during breaks and hearings. Corbett argued that it was hard to say what constituted an interview, and Ruth responded by ordering his deputies to keep everyone silent.

Reporters have complained about extraordinary secrecy in the child molestation case, including lack of access to hearings, the withholding of the identities of Jackson's alleged conspirators, a sweeping gag order imposed on lawyers, and the sealing of all case documents under a judge's order.

In other rulings today, Melville ordered prosecutors to give defendants the names of confidential witnesses in the case. The judge has ordered that the informants' names be kept secret, but District Attorney Tom Sneddon let one slip. He revealed in court that the alleged victim's stepfather is one of the witnesses. Sneddon realized his error and lightly hit a podium in frustration.

Also, Melville said he would not allow plans to begin the trial in January to be derailed by defense complaints that prosecutors are not sharing evidence quickly enough. "That would be punishing me for your failure ... It's not in the interest of anybody to prolong this litigation," he said.

The judge set a Nov. 4 hearing on a defense request to have Sneddon removed from the case, and a Nov. 5 hearing for a defense request that Jackson's bail be lowered.


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