Judge tentatively rules on Jackson evidence

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

— The judge in the Michael Jackson child molestation case issued tentative rulings Monday admitting 39 pieces of evidence seized in a search of Jackson's Neverland estate and suggested he would toss out a number of other items.

The items were identified by numbers only, and most were shrouded in secrecy.

However, search warrant data previously released indicated the evidence tentatively admitted included several computer hard drives and a cassette recorder and audio tape found in a safe in Jackson's bathroom. A witness said the tape contained a child's voice.

Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville said he was "concerned" about 12 items taken during the Neverland search. The numbers indicated those included documents potentially covered by attorney-client privilege.

The judge said he also was inclined to suppress a number of items he did not list; no hints were given as to what they contained.

Melville said none of his rulings was final and that he would give the defense and prosecution the opportunity to present legal arguments in written briefs and at the next series of court hearings Sept. 16 and 17.

He said the written briefs would be filed under seal.

None of the item numbers appeared to involve the search of private investigator Bradley Miller's office.

The defense has sought to show Santa Barbara County officials exceeded the scope of the warrant to search Neverland and violated the attorney-client privilege at Miller's office because he was working for Jackson's former attorney, Mark Geragos.