SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) – The judge in the Michael Jackson child-molestation case ruled Wednesday that arguments over whether the jury can hear evidence of prior sexual offenses by the singer will be held in open court.

The ruling by Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville was a victory for the news media and the prosecution, which both opposed a defense request to take up the matter behind closed doors.

“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. Jury selection begins Jan. 31.

Jackson was not present Wednesday. The 46-year-old pop star is charged with plying a boy with alcohol and molesting him.

The judge has also ordered TV correspondent Martin Bashir to 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.



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