Missing: Michael Jackson's Grand Jury
A grand jury secretly convened in Santa Barbara County on Monday, meeting for the first time regarding Michael Jackson's child-molestation charges, PEOPLE reports. But the hide-and-seek hearings, orchestrated by District Attorney Tom Sneddon, proved so classified that the media was not absolutely certain where it was being conducted.
Reporters were forced to travel around the county attempting to locate the jury's meeting spot, after it was revealed that the jury was not meeting in the traditional spot at the county courthouse.
It was eventually discovered that sheriff's deputies had cordoned off an area leading to a departmental training facility. Deputies, who would not confirm the meeting of the 25-person jury at the facility, blocked the road to the buildings, which are reachable only by traveling through a group of condominiums or a back road.
Sneddon took unusual steps to keep the identities and the meetings of the jurors out of the public view. Additionally, Superior Court Judge Clifford R. Anderson III has banned the media from speaking with or photographing grand jurors. Although grand jury activity is usually kept secret, the high-profile nature of the case -- and concern about the 13-year-old accuser -- have led the prosecutor and judge to take extra steps.
However, some media outlets are still crying foul. A lawyer representing several news organizations argued against the tight restrictions in a letter to the judge. The judge seemed to give some ground late Monday when he eased restrictions about photographing and communicating with jurors and witnesses outside the courtroom, the Associated Press reports.
The Jackson case is further complicated by the fact that the pop singer has already been charged. Grand juries are usually held first to determine whether to bring charges against a defendant. In this case, prosecutors are hoping for an indictment, which will mean that they would not have to present their evidence at a preliminary hearing if the case goes to trial.
Jackson is charged with seven counts of lewd acts on a child under the age of 14 and two counts of administering alcohol to a minor. He has pleaded innocent and is not expected to testify before the grand jury.
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