11/04/2004 at 03:00 PM EST
The path for Michael Jackson's trial on child molestation charges was further cleared on Thursday when a judge rejected the defense's attempt to remove Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon from the case.
In asking Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville to discharge Sneddon, Jackson's chief lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr. cited what he called the DA's "personal interest in the case, his emotional state and his conscious and unconscious bias," adding, "he has lost his sense of justice," Reuters reports.
The jurist, however, decided that despite the defense's contention that Sneddon's grudge against Jackson goes back to 1993 (when the DA failed to get Jackson brought up on child molestation charges), there was no proof Sneddon had acted improperly or overzealously.
Melville further assured Jackson's side that Sneddon's future conduct would be closely monitored. The trial is still set to begin as scheduled on Jan. 31.
Jackson, 46, did not attend the hearing at which Melville announced his decision. Sneddon reportedly sat silently at the prosecution table while prosecutor Ron Zonen assured the court of his objectivity.