SANTA MARIA, Calif. – Michael Jackson's (search) lawyer told a judge Friday that the defense has uncovered a wealth of material pointing to Jackson's innocence that should be presented to a grand jury investigating child molestation allegations against the pop star.
Attorney Benjamin Brafman (search) told Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville that he and co-counsel Mark Geragos (search) were turning over to the prosecution a letter listing 100 items that tend to help show Jackson did not commit the crimes with which he is charged.
"There is a wealth of clearly exculpatory material. ... We are filing today 20 notebooks with the district attorney's office," Brafman said.
Among items the defense will ask to have presented to the grand jury are school and psychiatric reports from a lawsuit involving Jackson's accuser, who is now 14, and his family.
The lawsuit claimed security guards beat the boy, his mother and his brother in a parking lot after the boy left a JCPenney (search) store carrying clothes that hadn't been paid for. The mother also claimed she was sexually assaulted by one of the guards during the 1998 confrontation.
The department store and Tower Records settled the suit for about $150,000 In November 2001.
Jackson's defense subpoenaed the records from attorney James LaChance, who represented Tower Records. LaChance said much of the material had been previously sealed and he felt he could not turn it over to the defense and prosecution without a court order.
Melville issued the order and LaChance handed over two file boxes which he also said contained depositions given in the lawsuit in 2000.
It was unclear what role the medical and psychiatric records could have in the case. The boy underwent chemotherapy in 2001. His estranged father said in a January request for visitation with the boy and his siblings that the boy's mother sought mental health treatment in 1998.
Although Brafman was forbidden from mentioning the actual grand jury because of its secrecy, he told the judge "the world is abuzz with the fact that there is another proceeding going on."
"If you're just reading the papers back East they are quoting chapter and verse of the witnesses who have appeared," he said.
Brafman noted that by the time the material is turned over to prosecutors and presented to the grand jury, many witnesses mentioned in the documents will have already testified.
"The material impacts demonstrably on the testimony of witnesses who already appeared and we would request that the witnesses come back," he said.
The defense is not permitted to present evidence to a grand jury but it may give prosecutors material that is favorable to the defendant, and the prosecution is obligated to present it to the grand jury.
Jackson is charged 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. Jackson has pleaded innocent.
A grand jury indictment would supersede the current criminal case and eliminate the need for a preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to put Jackson on trial.
The central issue in the hearing was secrecy, both in the grand jury and in the existing criminal case.
The judge talked about keeping witnesses' names secret and about keeping search warrant affidavits secret except for sections he chooses to release.
He also met privately with defense lawyers to address secrecy about a mysterious audio tape seized from the office of a defense investigator. Melville said he will listen to the tape again and make a final decision on whether it can be disclosed to the prosecution.
The judge also modified his gag order prohibiting attorneys from speaking about most aspects of the case. Melville said they could give him proposed written responses to media reports and he would then decide if the statements could be released.
Media attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr. told the judge he will continue to press for opening all documents including search warrants in their entirety. The judge took no action on further releases.
The judge also set an April 30 session to take up the issue of setting a preliminary hearing date. That could become moot if the grand jury indicts.
Jackson did not attend Friday's hearing. On Thursday he was in Washington, D.C., where he met with members of Congress and was lauded for his work fighting AIDS.
Brafman was asked after the hearing how Jackson was doing.
"I think Michael Jackson, as you saw on TV, is in good spirits and, being Michael Jackson, is leaving the legal work to his lawyers," Brafman said.
Outside the courthouse, a few Jackson fans and critics held opposing signs: "What if it was your kid" and "Michael Jackson, God and we know you are 100 percent innocent."