- The Washington Times - Friday, January 28, 2005

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — Dozens of adult-oriented books, magazines and DVDs seized at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch — one with the fingerprints of Mr. Jackson and his accuser — can be used as evidence in the pop singer’s upcoming trial, the judge ruled yesterday .

Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville also ruled that Mr. Jackson’s accuser should testify in open court instead of in a closed courtroom with an audio hookup for the press.

At a hearing three days before the start of jury selection, Judge Melville said he will permit most of the proposed evidence to be used at trial but said the prosecution could not refer to the material as pornography, obscenity or erotic.

Instead, the words “adult” or “sexually explicit” can be used, he said.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen said the 50 print and video items that were seized in 2003 included graphic sexual material that was heterosexual and homosexual in nature. The material also included nude photos of models who may have been 18 but looked much younger, he said.

Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. countered that all the materials seized were legally available. In the case of the magazine with the fingerprints, he said, evidence will show Mr. Jackson took it away from his accuser and locked it up.

Mr. Zonen said investigators found the fingerprints of Mr. Jackson and his accuser on one of the magazines but gave no further details.

Mr. Jackson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to charges of molesting a 13-year-old boy and plying him with alcohol.

Judge Melville ruled that several items could not be used as evidence, including three books seized in 1993 that purportedly show pictures of nude adolescents.

Prosecutors had wanted to close the courtroom to the press and public when the boy, now 15, and his 14-year-old brother testify, proposing that reporters be allowed to hear their voices through an audio feed. But the judge ruled yesterday that the courtroom should be open, adding that he would consider closing it if there were any disruptions.

A coalition of press outlets covering the high-profile case, including the Associated Press, had argued that the boys’ testimony should not be closed.

On another matter, the judge ruled that jurors will be allowed to see a British documentary broadcast on ABC-TV in 2003 that contains footage of Mr. Jackson and his accuser holding hands and the singer defending his practice of sleeping in the same bed with children.

Jury selection could last as long as a month, with the judge and attorneys for both sides expected to screen as many as 750 prospective jurors.

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