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Judge denies gag order for Hollywood's murder trial

March 06, 2007|Steve Chawkins | Times Staff Writer

SANTA BARBARA — A judge Monday denied a prosecution request for a gag order in the murder trial of Jesse James Hollywood, ruling that intensive publicity -- including a recent feature film -- has not been "unduly prejudicial."

In a brief hearing, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Brian Hill turned down a motion that would have prevented attorneys on both sides from speaking substantively about the case outside of court.

James Blatt, Hollywood's attorney, called the move by prosecutors "the height of hypocrisy -- or, if you will, chutzpah," contending that the Santa Barbara County district attorney's office helped create much of the publicity it now finds troubling.

No date has been set for Hollywood's trial in the slaying of Nicholas Markowitz, a West Hills 15-year-old who was killed in 2000, allegedly to avenge a drug debt owed by his older brother.

Hollywood, 27, has pleaded not guilty. Four other men have been convicted in the shooting death, which occurred at a remote Santa Barbara County campground.

A fictionalized account of the case was the subject of "Alpha Dog," a movie that opened in theaters two months ago. Starring Justin Timberlake, Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone, "Alpha Dog" was made with the cooperation of Ron Zonen, a Santa Barbara County prosecutor who shared ordinarily confidential investigative files with producer Nick Cassavetes.

Zonen, who has said he helped filmmakers as a way of trying to locate the then-fugitive Hollywood, was ordered off the case by a state appeals court. That decision is under appeal.

steve.chawkins@latimes.com

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