The Misunderstood Power of Michael Jackson’s Music – The Atlantic


Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

Joseph Vogel

His influence today proves him to be one of the greatest creators of all time, but Jackson’s art—like that of many black artists—still doesn’t get the full respect it deserves.

The point of his ambition wasn’t money and fame; it was respect…

Read MoreThe Misunderstood Power of Michael Jackson’s Music – The Atlantic.


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Six months sentence for man who falsely accused Louis Walsh of assault

The man who last year accused music producer Louis Walsh of sexually assaulting him in a nightclub toilet has been sentenced to six months in prison for his crime.

Leonard Watters (24) pleaded guilty in November to making false reports to police. He has been granted bail and is free pending an appeal of the sentence, which could take several months.

At Wednesday’s sentencing hearing Watters’ solicitor pleaded for leniency for his client, whom he said had needed “professional intervention” for a long time. He described Watters as “a vulnerable, fragile human being, who behaved appallingly without giving real thought to the consequences for the injured party,” who was now “a laughing stock” due to his allegations.

“If ever there was a cry for help, this is it,” he said

Watters made a statement to police following a night out in April of last year, during which he met Walsh at a Dublin nightclub. Watters told police that Walsh had groped him on the dancefloor, later changing his story saying the incident had occurred in the gents’ toilet. He was brought to a sexual assault treatment unit for examination, and was found to have bruising on his genitals.

Watters later admitted that he had lied when CCTV footage from the club showed the incident he described had not occurred. He apologised in court to Walsh, who was not present, again admitting that the allegation was false.

He continues to maintain he was sexually assaulted on the night in question, but not by Louis Walsh.

See also:
The effects of being falsely accused
Louis Walsh false accuser jailed for six months for ‘grope’ allegation
Jail term for false Walsh claims

Michael Jackson’s influence on 18th century poetry and prehistoric crustaceans

English: Robert Burns Source: Image:Robert bur...

Robert Burns, 1759-1796. Image via Wikipedia.

I was fascinated to hear this week that Michael Jackson had recorded a number of songs based on the poems of Robert Burns, the famed 18th century Scottish poet who wrote, among many other poems, the New Year’s Eve stalwart ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and the delightful ‘To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up in Her Nest With The Plough’, which gave us the paraphrased saw ‘The best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry’.

David Gest revealed that he and Jackson had collaborated on a play based on Burns’ life, with Michael writing a number of musical pieces based on Burns’ poems. Though Jackson’s interpretations remain unpublished, Gest went on to produce a musical based on Burns’ life, entitled Red Red Rose after one of the poet’s best known works, and starring John Barrowman as Robert Burns.

Gest now plans to donate the songs to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum which hopes to produce a CD of the songs. It will be interesting to see how Jackson interpreted Burns’ words, and how closely he adhered to the unfamiliar Scottish dialect in which Burns wrote.

Fossilised partial remains of Mesoparapylocheles michaeljacksoni

Meanwhile, a group of paleontologists have announced their discovery of an ancient species of hermit crab, which lived about 100 million years ago, and which they have named after Michael Jackson. Fossilised remains of the animal, named Mesoparapylocheles michaeljacksoni, were first discovered in northern Spain on June 25 2009, the day Michael Jackson died.

“Michael Jackson’s music will no doubt live a very long time and influence many people so I think the name is appropriate,” one of the researchers explained. The group’s findings were published this month in the German science journal Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie.

Another celebrity speaks out

Finally, I have noticed that, despite being the top post on what has been an inactive blog for the past two and a half months, The effects of being falsely accused is now one of my most viewed posts of all time. In light of this, I thought I should revisit the issue because another celebrity was recently accused of a sex crime, and has spoken of the devastating effects this has had on his life. Michael Le Vell, better known as Kevin Webster in UK soap opera Coronation Street, was accused in September of raping a young girl several years previously. The claim was investigated for three months before being dropped due to a lack of evidence.

Le Vell later gave a glimpse of the devastating effect this allegation had on him, saying the claims left him feeling suicidal and wanting to “throw myself under a bus”. He also fears that people will believe the allegation is true and that there is “no smoke without fire”, despite Greater Manchester Police finding that he had no case to answer.

Le Vell has also called for a change in the law to allow anonymity for those accused of a sex crime but not convicted, and therefore presumptively innocent.

“No one should have to go through what I’ve been through,” he said. “These are the worst sort of allegations anyone could face. Saying I raped a kid, it’s just horrific. It’s wrong that people can be named like this. It’s been worse for me because I’m well-known, I’m high-profile. Things need to change.”

I should point out that I am not suggesting that false allegations of sexual abuse are predominatly an issue for celebrities; anyone can be accused, but when that person is famous, it brieftly throws a spotlight on this all too often ignored problem.

The effects of being falsely accused

Louis Walsh, the Irish music manager probably best known for his work as a judge on the UK TV show The X Factor, spoke out earlier this year about the effects of being falsely accused of sexual assault. His accuser pleaded guilty this week to two counts of making false reports.

Walsh first learned of the allegation last June when he received a phone call from a reporter at the UK tabloid the Sun stating that the paper planned to run a story that he had been accused of sexually assaulting a young man in a nightclub toilet. The following day, the paper ran with the allegation as its front page story. It was quickly picked up by other media and ran on the front pages of the UK’s tabloid press for several days.

Walsh had apparently met his accuser at a Dublin nightclub two months previously, and had spoken to him briefly. This man later made a complaint to An Garda Siochana, the Irish police force. According to members of the group Westlife, who were with Walsh on the night in question, Walsh was not drinking and he did not use the toilet during his time in the nightclub.

Walsh vehemently denied any wrongdoing from the minute the scandal broke. He travelled to Dublin, where the complaint was made, and was voluntarily interviewed by An Garda Siochana within days of the allegation. Walsh was cleared of all wrongdoing, and the man who made the allegation admitted to police that he had fabricated his claims.

When Walsh spoke out recently about the effects that the allegations had on his life and health he echoed the same awful consequences which are routinely experienced by men who have had to contend with the trauma of being falsely accused.

Louis Walsh spoke to the Daily Mail about his ordeal.

In July Walsh told the Daily Mail and the Mirror that the allegations left him feeling suicidal, and he had trouble eating and could not sleep without sleeping tablets. He also suffered from panic attacks as a result of the allegations.

“I’ve changed forever,” he said. “This has made me physically ill. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. I’ve lost so much weight that my suits don’t even fit me any more.

“I can’t even get a proper night’s sleep, so I’m exhausted. When I drift off I suddenly wake up in a blind panic. The panic attacks are awful. I have to calm myself down and say, ‘It’s over, I’m going to be OK’.”

To be falsely accused of sexual assault is an extremely traumatic experience. Men who are falsely accused routinely experience suicidal feelings, anxiety, and depression as a result of their ordeal. What Louis Walsh describes is a normal reaction to a nightmare situation.

And yet, notwithstanding the very distressing nature of this incident, Walsh was at least spared the extended ordeal suffered by many others who are falsely accused of a sex crime. His ordeal was thankfully a short one due largely to the fact that CCTV footage from the club demonstrated that the incident his accuser described to the police had not occurred.

Many men who are falsely accused have to cope with an investigation which drags on for months, or even years. Many have to contend with arrest, charges, devastating damage to their reputations, and even the ignomy of a public prosecution and, in the most extreme circumstances, a criminal conviction and prison sentence for a crime that they did not commit.

Warren Blackwell, for example, was falsely accused of sexual assault, and his name was not cleared until after he had served a three and a half year prison sentence, even though police knew his accuser had a history of similar false allegations. He was refused leave to appeal his conviction, while the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service appealed the leniency of his sentence, which was duly extended. Vladek Filler was acquitted by a Maine, US court of sexually assaulting his wife last May, four years after she falsely accused him of raping her. He was prosecuted twice on this charge – he was convicted in 2009 but a retrial was ordered on appeal – even though his wife, from whom he had separated shortly before the allegation, had already fabricated claims that he had sexually abused their children, claims which were found to be false on investigation.

In the Blackwell and Filler cases, the fact that the complainants had made previous false allegations should have alerted investigating officers to the very real possibility that these claims were also false. The only way to prevent other cases like those of Warren Blackwell and Vladek Filler is to acknowledge the fact that false allegations do occur, and to abandon the ‘no smoke without fire’ approach to complaints which appear spurious. While the notion of challenging the credibility of a victim may sound distasteful, there are clearly cases where the credibility of a complainant should be questioned, because there is a likelihood that by pursuing his or her alleged assailant the law is, in fact, punishing the real victim.

The leaking of the Chandler settlement

In June 2004, details of the confidential 1994 settlement between Michael Jackson and the Chandler family, who had accused Jackson of abusing then 13-year-old Jordie Chandler, were leaked to the media, and details of the settlement featured on both Court TV and The Smoking Gun website, which the channel had purchased in 2000.

The Smoking Gun, the website which would later publish selected transcripts from the grand jury hearing, featured a redacted copy of the settlement along with the civil complaint relating to these allegations, and a retainer agreement signed in September 1993 which revealed that Larry Feldman, or at least the law firm he was associated with, received an estimated $3 million in fees from the deal.

The website, which specialises in the publication of documents “that can’t be found elsewhere on the web”, had already published a declaration by Jordie Chandler in which he outlined allegations of sexual abuse by Jackson in graphic detail. The website re-published this document on November 18 2003 – the same day that Neverland was raided by Santa Barbara sheriffs investigating claims made by the Arvizo family. It published the document again, under the headline ‘Michael Jackson’s other legacy’, on June 25 2009, just hours after Michael Jackson’s death.

The settlement document reveals some interesting facts about the agreement that Jackson and the Chandlers had arrived at. The document is a settlement for claims alleging negligent infliction of emotional distress, and it specifically states that it “shall not be construed as an admission by Jackson that he has acted wrongfully with respect to the Minor, Evan Chandler or June Chandler, or any other person or at all.”

The document states that the settlement is being made “for alleged compensatory damages for alleged personal injuries arising out of claims of negligence and not for claims of intentional or wrongful acts of sexual molestation”, and acknowledges that Jackson was settling the civil action because of the damage the claim could do to his reputation and, by extension, his earning capacity.

While it is widely known that the Chandlers withdrew co-operation with the criminal case against Jackson after this settlement, it is not generally acknowledged that they also waived any civil claim for alleged molestation. In the settlement, the Chandlers agreed to “dismiss, without prejudice, the first through sixth causes of action of the complaint”, namely sexual battery, battery, seduction, wilful misconduct, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and fraud, “leaving only the seventh cause of action pending”, ie, negligence. In effect, the Chandler family dropped their pursuit of Jackson for damages for alleged molestation – though the terms of the settlement, ie dismissing without prejudice, left this avenue open to them – opting instead for the somewhat ambiguous tort of negligence which alleged that, rather than deliberately harming Jordie Chandler, Jackson had somehow failed in his duty of care to the family.

The document also reveals the settlement amount – $15,331,250 – though not the details of how this money was disbursed among Jordie Chandler and his parents, which remains redacted. The $15.3 million settlement was not quite the $20 million which had been suggested for years, and is still often quoted by commentators, but it is a staggering sum nonetheless, and begs the question, why did Michael Jackson, who always protested his innocence in this case, hand over so much money to the Chandler family? To understand the reasoning behind this settlement, it is necessary to examine the factors which shaped this decision, one of which is the Dangerous World Tour.

Jackson embarked on the Dangerous World Tour in June 1992, and by the time the tour was shelved in November 1993 he had performed 69 concerts across Europe, Asia, and  South America to an estimated audience of 3.5 million. It was an ambitious undertaking by any standard. The tour had been scheduled to last 20 months, though the final four months were cancelled in November 1993 due to Jackson’s failing health and dependence on prescription painkillers.

Even before the allegations emerged, the tour was not without its problems. Jackson had been forced to cancel a number of concerts due to health problems, including a throat infection and back pain, before the Chandler controversy. The emergence of abuse allegations saw a further significant decline in the singer’s wellbeing. Though Jackson continued with the tour for several weeks, he was not prepared for the enormous emotional toll the controversy would exact from him.

The first Dangerous concerts to be cancelled during the 1993 leg of the tour occurred in late August, just days after the allegations were made public. Jackson continued to miss gigs on a regular basis until November, when the final four months of the tour were cancelled. He later spent time in rehab in the UK to after developing a psychological dependence on the prescription painkillers he had been taking for several years to deal with various health issues.

During the 19 months of the tour Jackson regularly played to audiences of between 20,000 and 100,000, generating nine figures in revenue in the process. Pepsi sponsored the tour to the tune of $20 million. The broadcast rights to Jackson’s concert in Bucharest, Hungary, on October 1, 1992, was sold to to HBO for a reported $21 million, the highest amount ever paid for a live concert. The tour was a massive money-making machine, though Jackson donated his own earnings from the tour to charity, most notably the Heal The World Foundation, which he had established to provide support to children affected by poverty and disadvantage around the world.

The tour was by no means Jackson’s only source of revenue. In 1991, he had signed a lucrative recording contract with Sony, estimated to be worth up to $1 billion for the company. At the time, it was the largest contract in recording history. By 1993, Michael Jackson was the highest paid performer in the music industry; he had the capacity to earn enormous sums of money, not only for himself but for anyone who was fortunate enough to do business with him.

It is no wonder, then, that Jackson was under pressure to make the allegations of sexual abuse, accompanied by the worst possible publicity for a performer who relied heavily on his public image as part of his earning capacity, go away. In 2004, defence attorney Thomas Mesereau revealed in court documents that the settlement was made by Jackson’s insurance company, not by the singer himself; in this context, $15 million was a pittance compared the money that had been invested in Jackson, and the returns he was expected to produce on that investment.

Before the scandal broke in the media, Jackson was offered the chance to make the allegations disappear by handing over $20 million to Evan Chandler; he refused, and accused Chandler of extortion, a charge he later recanted as part of the settlement. However by January 1994 the Chandlers were holding all the cards. A criminal investigation into the allegations was under way. Despite this investigation, Jackson was due to be deposed in the civil case, a move which would have severely compromised his ability to mount an effective defence in any subsequent criminal trial. Jackson’s attorneys sought to have the civil case delayed by up to six years, though the Chandlers’ lawyer, Larry Feldman, sought to have the civil case expedited on the grounds that Jordie was “entitled to lead the remainder of his childhood without a cloud over his head that he is an extortionist and a liar”. Neither scenario would have derailed a criminal trial. The judge in the civil case agreed with Feldman, and the civil case was scheduled to occur concurrently with the criminal investigation, and would likely have preceded any criminal charges.

This move effectively made it necessary for Jackson to expedite the civil case by means of a settlement rather than risk the potential damage a hearing would have done to his ability to defend himself against the pending criminal charges. After the settlement, the Chandlers withdrew their co-operation with the criminal investigation, though there was nothing in the civil settlement to prevent them testifying in any criminal trial. Two grand juries were convened in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles to hear evidence in the criminal case but the evidence presented was weak, despite Santa Barbara district attorney Tom Sneddon seeking a further 90 days to gather evidence against Jackson. In fact the evidence was so weak that neither grand jury was asked to return an indictment.

The June 2004 leak was, needless to say, devastating for Michael Jackson. In the midst of fighting fresh false allegations, this decade-old case had been resurrected with lurid details of previous allegations now publicly available to anyone who visited The Smoking Gun, or sought information on the case online. Jackson, under the strict confidentiality terms of the very document which had been leaked, was not at liberty to speak about the case publicly. However he did issue a statement addressing the leak, which were published on a fan website and on various news websites.

“I respect the obligation of confidentiality imposed on all of the parties to the 1993 proceedings,” the statement read. “Yet, someone has chosen to violate the confidentiality of those proceedings. Whoever is now leaking this material is showing as much disrespect for the Santa Maria Court’s ‘gag order’ as they are a determination to attack me.

“No action or investigation has been taken to determine who is leaking this information or why they are permitted to violate the law in such a manner. I respectfully request that people see their efforts for what they are.

“These kinds of attacks and leaks seek to try the case in the press, rather than to a jury who will hear all the evidence that will show that I did not, and would not, ever, harm a child. I have always maintained my innocence and vehemently denied that these events ever took place. I reluctantly chose to settle the false claims only to end the terrible publicity and to continue with my life and career.

“I ask all of my neighbours in Santa Maria, the people to whom I give my loyal trust and admiration, to keep an open mind and give me a chance to show that I am completely innocent of these charges. I will not let you down.”

The district attorney’s office responded to this statement by seeking a request for clarification as to whether Jackson had broken the terms of the gag order which was in place, which senior deputy district attorney Gordon Auchincloss asserted “unequivocally proscribed the public dissemination of any statements from defendant relating to this case”.

Judge Rodney Melville later concluded that Jackson had indeed broken the terms of the gag order by “discussing potential evidence”. Melville ordered that the gag order be strictly enforced, and that anyone who needed to make a public statement avail of the ‘safe harbour’ provisions in the order, ie, any further statements regarding the case, to address unfair or inaccurate reporting, could not be released without the permission of the court.

Discovery – part one

One of the most contentious issues between the prosecution and defence in the months leading up to the start of the trial was that of discovery.

The long running argument over the handling and disclosure of evidence began in May 2004 when the defence submitted a motion to compel discovery, arguing that, six months after the criminal investigation began into Michael Jackson, the prosecution had yet to deliver a vast amount of discovery to Jackson’s attorneys.

Though the district attorney’s office had by then handed over more than 1,000 pages of documentary evidence, including police reports and summaries of witness interviews, along with 51 audio tapes, two video tapes, and other materials, defence attorney Steve Cochran argued the prosecution had yet to respond to defence requests for full witness statements, tapes and photographs. The prosecution at this stage had indicated that it planned to call 41 witnesses, including 16 police officers.

Nor had the defence been afforded the opportunity to review some 400 items of physical evidence seized during the police search of Neverland Ranch the previous December, which the prosecution stated were unavailable due to ongoing forensic examination, five months after they were seized. Cochran stated that the prosecution had estimated that it would be “a few weeks” before these items would be available to the defence.

“Obtaining complete discovery from the prosecution is indispensable for defence counsel to prepare properly for trial,” Cochran wrote. “The investigation of this case involves dozens of, if not over 100, witnesses, voluminous documents and expert examination on a variety of topics. The defence needs adequate time to review the material generated by the prosecution and conduct separate inquiry that may arise from that review.”

Cochran argued that the delays in disclosure of evidence could compromise Michael Jackson’s right to a fair trial, and requested a court order to ensure the timely production of discovery ahead of the trial, which was by then expected to begin in September 2004.

“Obviously, discovery by the prosecution is far from complete,” Cochrane added. “Meanwhile, over the last six months, Mr Jackson has endured intrusions of privacy, worldwide coverage of criminal allegations, live broadcasts of his voluntary appearance for booking and the posting of exorbitant bail. The prosecution has found the time and effort necessary to prepare for grand jury proceedings, conduct ongoing witness interviews and monitor forensic examination of seized items at the expense of providing timely discovery as the law requires. The failure to complete discovery is inexcusable.

“All of the discovery categories requested by defence counsel are authorized by Penal Code 1054 and applicable law. Defence counsel is entitled to reasonable access to items seized pursuant to search warrants. At least so far, the prosecution does not dispute its obligation to produce the discovery sought by defence counsel.

“Since arraignment on the complaint in January of this year [2004], the prosecution has conducted further investigation through search warrants, witness interviews and testimony before the grand jury. Meanwhile, defence requests for discovery have been ignored. The defendant’s right of access to seized items has been completely denied, and other basic information, such as taped witness statements, have not been produced. This is unfair and unacceptable, especially in view of the interest in proceeding to trial with undue delay.

“The indictment indicates that the prosecution has gathered voluminous information, little of which has been provided. The defence will need a substantial period of time after discovery by the prosecution is complete to conduct the investigation and other preparation necessary for trial.

“Due to the high volume of material and the significant number of witnesses involved, prompt completion of discovery is essential for adequate trial preparation. The defence needs ample time to conduct follow-up witness interviews, locate and interview rebuttal witnesses and conduct its own forensic examinations, among other things. This process will take months. It cannot begin in earnest until the prosecution provides complete discovery to the defense that should have been done by now.”

In response to the defence motion, senior deputy district attorney Gordon Auchincloss reiterated the volume of material already provided Jackson’s lawyers. He argued that, due to the complex system of drafting and filing reports, “some lag between investigation and the final report is inevitable”.

“The first notice provided to the People that the informal discovery process had reached an critical impasse requiring the court’s intervention came in the form of defendant’s motion to compel discovery,” he wrote. “The People have promptly provided discovery to defendant as soon as it becomes available and are in complete compliance with its obligations under Brady v. Marlyand (1963) 373 U.S. 667 and the rules for discovery in criminal cases pursuant to Penal Code 1054 et seq.”

The Brady case Auchincloss referred to is the precedent under which defence attorneys seek the disclosure of exculpatory evidence, ie evidence which tends to show that a defendant is not guilty of the crimes he or she stands accused of. Penal Code 1054, meanwhile, is the legal standard for discovery in all criminal cases in California. The defence had requested discovery under both Penal Code 1054 and Brady, a standard request in most cases.

Auchincloss rejected “the misinterpretation that the prosecution is ‘controlling’ discovery”, saying the prosecution had already notified the defence of new reports and tapes which would “be ready for pickup the following week”, while the physical evidence collected during the investigation was already “available for inspection”.

“The People could not agree with the unusual defense request that the Sheriff’s Department relinquish unsupervised custody and control of physical evidence to the defence and their investigators during its viewing,” he added, claiming the defence motion was “premature and disregards the obligation of the defence to endeavour to resolve discovery issues informally”.

The defence countered that a motion to compel discovery was indeed necessary, as it had not received any discovery from the prosecution since the previous March, and did not begin to receive fresh documents until the motion to compel was filed with the court.

“Months ago, defense counsel sent written requests for complete discovery and access to items seized by police during various searches,” the defence reply stated. “The prosecution never responded. The last wave of discovery by the prosecution was received on March 12, 2004. Until around the time this Motion was filed, the prosecution provided no schedule for defense access to the seized items, some of which have been in the prosecution’s possession since November of last year.

“The prosecution promises that its investigation is ongoing and will continue all the way to and through trial. The import of the prosecution’s position is that the defense will be provided discovery in piecemeal fashion, after information is gathered and processed by police, up until the eve of trial. This approach to discovery is unfair and unacceptable.”

Defence attorneys also argued that a hearing about the examination of physical evidence, which would require “re-examination, further analysis and possible forensic testing”.

According to the document, Gordon Auchincloss had agreed to support a court order which would allow the defence team to examine grand jury exhibits, but only on condition that he control defence access to the exhibits.

“Defense counsel objected and pointed out that the Court has custody of the exhibits and that Court personnel would supervise any inspection in compliance with their procedures and the Court’s instructions,” it continued. “Mr Auchincloss said we would have to take that up with the Court.”

Judge Rodney Melville declined to make an order regarding discovery, other than to stipulate that motions to compel should address specific problems rather than the discovery process in general. The judge did, however, order that both sides would have access to the grand jury evidence under supervision of court personnel. He also ordered that the defence be accommodated in viewing and examining physical evidence from search warrants, and that law enforcement personnel who oversaw this examination not disclose any details of defence conversations to anyone.

The grand jury – the media seeks the release of transcripts

In May 2004 a group of media organisations – which, under the collective moniker of the access proponents, opposed the sealing of documents throughout the case – sought the unsealing of the grand jury transcripts and the resulting indictment. Theodore J Boutrous, the attorney for the access proponents, argued that “grand jury indictments are traditionally, and presumptively, open to the public”, and that access to the grand jury proceedings was protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, while the indictment was a matter of public record. The indictment had been released in redacted form, minus the 28 overt acts relating to the conspiracy charge.

While acknowledging that grand jury proceedings are usually carried out in secret, Boutrous contended that “there is no statutory authorization giving courts the power to keep all or any parts of indictments under seal, let alone mandating that they must do so”. The motion to unseal the grand jury indictment reasoned that public access to the indictment was an instrument of fair and open justice, and served a role in safeguarding the integrity of the judicial process.

In the access proponents’ motion to unseal the grand jury transcript, Boutrous argued that the “only the particular portions of the transcript, if any, that the Court specifically finds threaten the defendant’s right to a fair and impartial trial may be kept under seal.” He claimed that “the need to protect the identity of the minor accusor” – one of the reasons given by Judge Rodney Melville for sealing the transcripts – was nullified by the fact that his “name is widely known (but not reported), and . . . can be redacted”, and that the portions of the transcript relating to the conspiracy charge “should be released in their entirety forthwith”. He contended that sealing the entire transcript to protect Michael Jackson’s right to a fair trial, because of the significant public interest in the case, “would mean that any time the public was interested in a criminal trial, the grand jury transcript would be kept secret on the theory that dissemination of information in the press could prejudice the defendant’s fair trial rights.” Boutrous suggested that jury voir dire would be a preferable means to safeguard the integrity of the trial and Jackson’s associated rights.

Jackson’s attorneys submitted an opposition to these motions three days later, which asserted that the release of the grand jury transcripts would indeed prejudice Michael Jackson’s right to a fair trial. Steve Cochran warned that the release of such a one-sided catalogue of testimony – grand juries, by their nature, reflect the prosecution’s view of the trial as witnesses are not subject to cross examination – was bound to contaminate the jury pool, as the case “has attracted as much media attention, if not more, than any other litigation ever”.

“The press coverage in this case is of the sensationalist variety,” he wrote. “Even after this court’s careful rulings, the press runs stories and entertainment pieces on every rumor. The court’s protective and under-seal orders have, however, reduced the intensity.”

According to Cochran the defense had only received the grand jury transcripts a short time before the access proponents’ motion to release the transcripts in their entirety, and was still awaiting a substantial amount of discovery – information on witnesses and evidence which the prosecution is required to share with the defense. Indeed, the defense still had a considerable wait for discovery from the district attorney’s office, and the issue of sharing crucial information in the trial would become a bone of contention between the two sides in the case (I will be looking at the issue of discovery in greater detail in later posts).

“The indictment and the grand jury transcripts are rife with prejudicial information that reflects a one-sided, prosecution theory of the case,” he wrote. “The admissibility of information presented to the grand jury and the overall propriety of those proceedings have yet to be determined [the defense later contested the indictment on both of these points]. It is plainly unfair to Mr Jackson to saturate the media, again, with only the prosecution’s view of the this case, particularly while Mr Jackson is subject to the constraints of the protective order.

In a rare concurrence between the two sides in the Jackson case, the prosecution agreed that the details of the grand jury and indictment should remain sealed. “The jurors in this case should learn about the evidence while seated in the jury box, not at the breakfast table or from late-night talk shows,” Gerald McC Franklin commented in a rejoinder to the defense opposition to the release of the transcripts. “Those records should remain sealed.”

The grand jury transcript did indeed remain sealed, though shortly before the start of the trial transcripts of several witnesses were leaked and published by The Smoking Gun, which was not among the access proponents.