January 12, 2005 08:40 AM

Defense lawyers in Michael Jackson’s child-molestation case have asked Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville to close the doors on Wednesday’s potentially explosive key hearing into accusations of past sex offenses by the singer.

During the session, prosecutors are expected to ask to introduce evidence of what they describe as his “prior sexual offenses,” with Team Jackson set to argue that this evidence should not be admissible, say reports.

Another issue to be dealt with Wednesday is based on a motion filed by a coalition of news media organizations asking that the case – whose trial is set to begin Jan. 31 – be open to reporters. The press is arguing that the gag order is in direct opposition to a long history of rulings in the U.S. Supreme Court and California Supreme Court guaranteeing access.

“What transpires in the courtroom is public property,” the motion said, reports the Associated Press. “Mr. Jackson’s celebrity status does not change that fact.”

Not that E! Networks will accept a news blackout. The cable station, with U.K.-based satellite broadcaster Sky TV, plans to have actors re-enact the trial on a daily half-hour show based on courtroom transcripts. “The tone will be deadly serious,” E! CEO Ted Harbert tells the Hollywood Reporter.

Jackson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to charges of molesting a boy, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol, to the alleged victim at his Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County.

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