Jewish World Review July 22, 2004 / 4 Menachem-Av 5764

Dan Abrams

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What is Michael Jackson's defense team so afraid of? | In a venomous argument to keep almost all of the details of the case secret, Attorney Robert Sanger wrote "the circus created by the news media in this case has defied all rationality. The illogic of the charges against Mr. Jackson and the absence of evidence to support the charges has been drowned in the flood of commotion."

So, the media should not have filed charges against Jackson? It was the prosecutors, not the media who filed the charges. It was the grand jury, not the media who added charges. In fact, it's safe to say on my TV show we've questioned the prosecution's case far more than the defense. At times we've even asked whether it's time to effectively drop charges against Jackson and we're not alone.

The problem? We don't even know exactly what Jackson is accused of doing. Even his alleged co-conspirators, names redacted from the record. All legal motions filed under seal and yet Jackson's attorney writes "the public, the press and the entertainment media are all better informed than they would be in most cases."

I've covered every high profile case of the past 10 years. I assure you, there's never been one where the public has been less informed. Sanger complains that Jackson is "surrounded by wild rumors and salacious allegations." Well the antidote is simple. Open up more of the evidence for review. The unprecedented secrecy, of course, leads to more speculation, not less, to more rumors, not less. It doesn't mean everything has to be public. But I would think if Jackson is innocent, his lawyers would want more made public.

As Supreme Court Justice William Brennan once wrote so that it would "be the necessary predicate for a movement to reform police methods, pass regulatory statutes or remove judges who do not adequately oversee law enforcement activity."

The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear you need more than just lots of publicity to prove it affects the defendant's right to a fair trial. In fact, that's exactly what the federal court of appeals ruled when the judge in the Martha Stewart case tried to keep the media out of jury selection. So how did Jackson's lawyers distinguish this case from Martha Stewart's? Well they're suddenly concerned about the privacy of the alleged victim and claim that in Stewart "each participant sought the intense glare of exposure unlike this case." Really?

Jackson has a top-notch legal team and what seems like a strong defense. The people in the state of California have the right to know more about what led their prosecutors to file this case.

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JWR contributor Dan Abrams anchors “The Abrams Report,” Monday through Friday from 9-10 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV. He also covers legal stories for “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw,” “Today” and “Dateline NBC.” To visit his website, click here. Comment by clicking here.



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