Fire marshal cuts public, media seats for Jackson trial

Rebbie Jackson, left, and Randy Jackson attend the first day of the family's suit against AEG.
Rebbie Jackson, left, and Randy Jackson attend the first day of the family’s suit against AEG.
(David Livingston / Getty Images)

The Los Angeles fire marshal has ordered the number of people in the courtroom where the Michael Jackson wrongful-death suit is being tried be reduced immediately, cutting the number of seats for the media by nearly two-thirds and leaving only one spot available for the public.

That does not mean the news media or the public will be shut out of the trial, which finished its 30th day Friday. Since the early days of the proceedings, a closed-circuit feed has been shown in another courtroom that seats 63 people.

The new rule means that media will alternate days in the courtroom. The Times, for instance, will have a seat on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but will have to watch the proceedings in the overflow room other days. Other media, including CNN, KTLA-TV (Channel 5), the Associated Press, the New York Post and Agence France Press, are also part of the rotation.

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The number of spectator seats in the courtroom is being reduced from45 to 34.

Before the trial started, Judge Yvette Palazuelos ruled that no cameras would be allowed in the courtroom. CNN’s request to broadcast the proceedings was denied.

Mary Hearn, a spokeswoman for the court, said the plaintiffs and defendants each get 12 seats, which can be filled with members of the legal team and guests. Another seven are reserved for the media and the rest for court staff. If the parties to the suit bring fewer people, their seats will be taken by media or the public. There is a daily lottery for the public.

Hearn said that 15 to 20 reporters have been in the courtroom most days.


A small group of Jackson fans have been attending the trial. Michael Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson, has been in the audience most days, along with her nephew. Janet Jackson attended for half a day.

But if Michael Jackson’s children or one of the celebrities on the witness list, such as Prince or Diana Ross, testify, the number of people wanting a look at the trial would probably grow.


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