Michael Jackson, who did not appear at his hearing Friday, will be back in a Santa Maria, California, court this fall, as the judge in his case has set a tentative trial date of September 13. Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville said the start date might be changed, but that he wanted a date as a "bull's eye" to shoot for.
Jackson's lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr. objected to the fall start date and argued that he needed months to prepare his client's defense, according to press reports as well as court sources contacted by MTV News. Mesereau told the court that he still had not received all the information he needed from former Jackson attorney Mark Geragos, nor, as Mesereau had noted in an earlier motion, had he seen all of the prosecution's evidence.
Mesereau also said he didn't have enough information about forensic tests being performed, and that without knowing what was being tested or how, he couldn't proceed. Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auckenglos told the court that prosecutors had already handed over more than 2,200 pages of evidence as well as 69 audiotapes, two videotapes and a computer CD, and that they plan to turn over the remainder next week (see "Michael Jackson's Lawyers To Prosecutors: Show Us What You Got").
As for the defense's request to reduce bail — currently $3 million — Melville heard arguments on both sides but did not rule. In arguing for a bail reduction, Mesereau said Jackson has no criminal record and has strong ties to Santa Barbara County via his Neverland Ranch. Mesereau suggested a bail of less than half a million, noting that the bail amount required by someone who had used a weapon of mass destruction would only be $1 million.
Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen countered that bail is usually set many times greater than an individual's assets, and in this case the defendant has enormous wealth. He characterized $3 million as an amount that Jackson might spend in a weekend in Las Vegas. Melville said he would rule on that issue at a later date.
Melville also did not decide on whether to release the full transcript of the grand jury proceedings. Lawyers representing the media had argued that the entire grand jury indictment and a transcript of the proceedings should be made public, but Melville had edited the indictment so that the names of five alleged and unindicted co-conspirators were hidden from view. Jackson's defense team does not want the indictment to remain sealed but suggested that it be released in a "measured way." The transcripts issue will be decided at the next hearing, set for June 25.
Meanwhile, longtime Jackson friend Macaulay Culkin defended the singer on CNN's "Larry King Live" Thursday. Appearing to promote his new movie, "Saved!," the actor said his childhood sleepovers at Neverland had been innocent and that "nothing happened."
"[People say,] 'Oh, you slept in the same bedroom as him.' It's like, I don't think you understand," Culkin said. "Michael Jackson's bedroom is two stories and it has like three bathrooms and this and that. So I slept in his bedroom, yes, but you have to understand the whole scenario. And the thing is with Michael, he's not good at explaining himself, and he never really has been, because he's not a very social person. You're talking about someone who has been sheltered and sheltering himself also for the last like 30 years. And so he's not very good at communicating to people and not good at conveying what he's actually trying to say to you. So when he says something like [there's nothing wrong with having children sleep in your bedroom], he doesn't understand why people react the way they do."
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see "Michael Jackson Accused."