Thursday, March 11, 2004
Los Angeles The district attorney who charged Michael Jackson with child molestation is convening a grand jury to hear evidence in the case, a move apparently designed to sidestep a public preliminary hearing, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
Citing unnamed legal sources, the Santa Barbara News-Press said potential grand jurors had received summonses to appear later this month.
A spokesman for Tellem Worldwide, which handles media inquiries for Santa Barbara County prosecutor Tom Sneddon, said a grand jury was being convened but he could not say whether it was for the Jackson case or another matter.
Jackson's lawyers said Wednesday they could not comment because of a judge's gag order.
"It doesn't surprise me if he (Sneddon) has decided to go to the grand jury," said Loyola University Law School Professor Laurie Levenson. "It avoids the media spectacle and it gives them a chance for a dress rehearsal" before a possible trial.
She said prosecutors almost certainly would have to present testimony to the grand jury behind closed doors from the boy who claims Jackson molested him.
"They get to see how well he holds up as a witness," she said.
Jackson has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of performing lewd or lascivious acts on a child under 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent, reportedly wine. He's free on $3 million bail.