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How Lisa Marie Presley's Passing Could Hinder Danny Masterson's Second Trial

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Lisa Marie Presley; Danny Masterson

Lisa Marie Presley's unexpected death of cardiac arrest Thursday, January 12 has left her family and fans in shock. 

Having just appeared at the Golden Globes with her mother Priscilla to celebrate Austin Butler's win for portraying her father Elvis Presley in "Elvis," hers is a celebrity death nobody saw coming.

But Presley's untimely passing may have ripple effects of a legal nature, too, given her involvement with "That 70s Show" actor and Scientologist Danny Masterson's rape trial.

Presley is one of 16 witnesses who ultimately did not testify in Masterson's 2022 mistrial, and Judge Charlaine Olmedo indicated this impacted her decision to retry the case.

And her previous identification as a "star witness" for the prosecution has sparked speculation about how Presley's death will impact Masterson's retrial, set to begin with jury selection on March 29.

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Lisa Marie Presley's death could alter Danny Masterson's trial.

Presley was a friend of one of Masterson's alleged victims, Jane Doe 1, and was allegedly asked by the Church of Scientology to dissuade her from pressing charges.

Like his other two alleged victims, Jane Doe 1 is a former Scientologist, and claims Masterson raped her at his Hollywood Hills home in April 2003 while he was starring on "That 70s Show."

Presley was a Scientologist until 2014, and her ex-husband, guitarist Michael Lockwood, has worked with Masterson's wife actress Bijou Phillips, daughter of The Mamas & the Papas musician John Phillips.

It is alleged the Church of Scientology asked Presley to pressure Jane Doe 1 not to press charges against Masterson, and that Presley later apologized for having done so in 2014 after leaving the Church.

RELATED: The Danny Masterson Rape Trial Uncovers Some Of Scientology's Most Disturbing Secrets

The prosecution will no longer be able to rely on Lisa Marie Presley's testimony in Danny Masterson's trial.

Masterson's upcoming second rape trial, announced two days before Lisa Marie Presley's death, may have included her testimony.

In court, Mueller argued that the previous jury had ignored important testimony, and that “not giving these victims another chance...would be an injustice."

Defense attorney Philip Cohen countered that nothing was likely to change the outcome of the case, a claim Judge Olmedo derided as "speculative and unsupported by the facts."

She went on to say that "a different outcome at a retrial is at least a possibility" because "it appears there are many other witnesses the [prosecution] could choose to call."

Those "many other witnesses" from the first trial, 16 in all, included Presley's testimony.

Prosecutors have not indicated whether they were intending to call Presley in the retrial prior to her death.

But given the implications of her alleged involvement, her passing is likely to have reverberations in the case when it begins later this year regardless.

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Presley was not called as a witness in Masterson's first trial.

Prosecutors ultimately decided against calling Presley to give her testimony after Judge Charlaine Olmedo severely limited its scope amid complaints from Masterson's defense attorneys.

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller had difficulty obtaining Presley's testimony after she indicated she may plead the fifth to avoid being implicated.

When she was eventually interviewed, Presley claimed she no longer accurately remembered if the Church of Scientology asked her to "smooth things over" between Masterson and Jane Doe 1.

Prosecutors repeatedly argued that Masterson's success on "That 70s Show" and Netflix's "The Ranch" gave him high status in the Church of Scientology that made him feel "entitled" to sex regardless of consent.

In response, Masterson's defense team, which included Bill Cosby and Presley's ex-husband Michael Jackson's attorney Tom Mesereau, fought vociferously to keep references to Scientology out of the courtroom.

And when it came to Presley's testimony, they complained it was unfairly obtained, not relevant and "too vague to be helpful."

Judge Olmedo responded by limiting Presley's admissible testimony to only what she knew about the crimes alleged, and not the Church of Scientology.

Reinhold then decided not to use Presley's testimony.

The case ended in a mistrial after jurors were unable to reach consensus, voting 10-2, 8-4 and 7-5 to acquit on each of the three counts of forcible rape against Masterson.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.

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