LOS ANGELES – The judge in Michael Jackson's (search) child-molestation case drew a curtain of secrecy tighter around the allegations Thursday, continuing to seal not only grand jury materials but also requests for release of unspecified evidence.
Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville (search), who had said at the last hearing that he would consider releasing the entire indictment as well as the grand jury transcript, said he had reviewed the material and decided to keep all of it sealed.
Melville expressed concern that "in the extraordinary, high publicity environment of this proceeding, the integrity of the jury pool is threatened" by possible disclosure of evidence that may or may not be admissible at trial.
Attorneys representing media organizations including The Associated Press had petitioned Melville to release the names of unindicted co-conspirators and 28 overt acts listed in the indictment. They also asked for release of the transcripts of the three-week grand jury hearings that led to Jackson's indictment.
Melville said he "desires that public access be maximized within the limitations of the concern for an unbiased jury pool and a fair trial."
He said he felt he had met that requirement by releasing a portion of the indictment containing the charges and sentencing considerations.
Loyola University Law Professor Laurie Levenson questioned Melville's ruling and whether he could have disclosed additional materials.
"It's impossible to believe that there was nothing in the transcript or indictment that could be released without jeopardizing Michael Jackson's right to a fair trial," she said.