SANTA MARIA, Calif. – The judge in the Michael Jackson (search) child-molestation case has ruled that a hearing about allegations of past sexual misconduct by the singer will not be held behind closed doors.
The ruling Wednesday by Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville (search) was a victory for the news media and the prosecution, which both opposed a defense motion to hold a hearing on the issue away from reporters.
"I was very pleased that the judge recognized the California Supreme Court ruling that hearings such as admission of evidence be held in open court," media attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr. said.
The judge said he will schedule the arguments after the jury is selected. Jackson's lawyers had contended that holding an open hearing on the alleged prior offenses would influence prospective jurors.
Jackson was not present Wednesday. The 46-year-old pop star is charged with plying a boy with alcohol and molesting him. Jury selection begins Jan. 31.
Pretrial hearings have been set for Jan. 21 and Jan. 27 to consider issues including whether a child-abuse expert can testify, the questionnaire to be given to jurors and other motions on admission of evidence.
The judge has also ordered TV correspondent Martin Bashir (search) to come to California to testify in the trial on March 1. Bashir produced the 2003 TV documentary in which Jackson said that he let children sleep in his bed but that it was not sexual.
Bashir is now a correspondent for ABC News, which said Wednesday it will fight the subpoena.
"We feel strongly that the California shield law protects the rights of journalists who cannot be — or be perceived to be — arms of either the prosecution or defense as they pursue the news," ABC News Vice President Jeffrey Schneider said.