Court grants Polanski request for stay on hearing

January 22nd, 2009 - 6:26 am ICT by IANS  

Los Angeles, Jan 22 (DPA) Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski has won an important victory in his bid to overturn his conviction 31 years ago on having unlawful sex with a minor.A California appellate court granted a request by Polanski’s lawyers for an emergency stay in proceedings at the Los Angeles County Superior Court which they had argued had displayed a history of bias against the director, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

The lawyers asserted that statements by a court spokesman as well as the conduct of a judge involved in negotiations with the director a dozen years ago were evidence of bias against the defendant and cause to disqualify all of the court’s judges.

The appellate judges gave prosecutors 10 days to respond to the allegations but did not comment on the specifics of the case.

The case harks back over 31 years to when Polanski, now 75, pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a a 13-year-old girl before fleeing to his native France prior to sentencing.

Polanski’s lawyers last month pleaded for the case to be dropped citing evidence from a documentary film “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired”, which showed that the judge in the case had been improperly briefed by the prosecution.

Prosecutors insist that any hearings on the appeal be suspended until Polanski returns to face justice in person, saying he was barred from seeking dismissal by his fugitive status.

The brief reminded the court of the severity of the charges against the celebrated director of films like “Chinatown” and “The Pianist” that he plied the girl “with multiple glasses of Champagne and a portion of a Quaalude pill, and then proceeded to … have sexual intercourse with this child”.

Tuesday’s hearing came after Polanski’s victim Samantha Geimer, now 45, called on prosecutors to drop the case.

“Every time this case is brought to the attention of the Court, great focus is made of me, my family, my mother and others,” Geimer said in a court filing earlier this month.

“That attention is not pleasant to experience and is not worth maintaining over some irrelevant legal nicety, the continuation of the case,” she said.

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