SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Dozens of prospective grand jurors arrived at an assembly room Thursday so court officials could begin selecting a panel to hear evidence in the child molestation case against Michael Jackson (search).
Court officials struggled to maintain secrecy about the grand jury's activities, which are usually confidential. Several reporters and news crews arrived hours before prospective grand jurors.
An order issued by Superior Court Judge Clifford R. Anderson III (search) on Wednesday barred news crews from photographing or speaking to prospective grand jurors and members of the final panel.
The order made no mention of prospective jurors' relatives, and reporters talked to several people who kissed their spouses goodbye as they entered the assembly room.
The husband of Judy Forbes of Guadalupe was among the prospective jurors, but Forbes said she doubted he would be selected because their son worked as a security guard at Neverland.
"He enjoyed doing it," she said. "My son never had a bad word to say about Michael Jackson."
Sheriff's officials handed reporters and photographers copies of the judge's order, which warned violations may be contempt of court, a misdemeanor.
Michael A. Mariant, a freelance photographer on assignment for The Associated Press, said a deputy ordered him to delete six or seven photos from his digital camera because they revealed too much of the people entering the building.
An attorney representing news organizations including the AP filed an emergency motion asking Anderson to vacate or modify his order, and to hold a hearing as soon as possible.
Jackson, whose Neverland estate (search) is in Santa Barbara County, was charged late last year with seven counts of committing lewd or lascivious acts upon a child under age 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent to the child.
Prosecutors are now seeking a grand jury indictment, which would mean they would not have to present evidence at a preliminary hearing to determine whether the case should go to trial.
A summons obtained by The Associated Press said grand jurors may have to serve for up to 90 days.