Judge keeps jury selection talks secret in Murray trial

Los Angeles (CNN) — Dozens of Los Angeles residents were dismissed from the jury pool in the trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor Thursday, but at least 70 potential jurors remain for the final phase of jury selection set for Friday morning.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers mutually agreed on which potential jurors were too biased to put their prejudices aside to decide if Dr. Conrad Murray is criminally responsible for the pop icon’s death, according to Murray defense lawyer Michael Flanagan.

“Both sides just want to get a fair jury that hasn’t made up their mind and is willing to make a decision based upon the facts,” Flanagan said after Thursday’s jury selection session.

Lead defense lawyer Ed Chernoff said there were no surprising reasons for striking jurors “for cause,” and the pool was filled with people who could be open minded. “Time ameliorates things,” Chernoff said.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor meeting with lawyers for both sides behind closed doors Wednesday and Thursday afternoon to decide which of the 145 potential jurors in the jury pool should be stricken.

The process is designed to remove anyone from the jury pool with a bias they cannot put aside to decide the case.

The potential jurors remaining in the pool will gather in court Friday morning for face-to-face questioning by the lawyers, a process called “voir dire.”

“I think voir dire is going to go very fast,” Flanagan said after Wednesday’s session.

While most judges allow defense lawyers an hour to question potential jurors, Pastor is allowing just 20 minutes for each side, Flanagan said.

“Twenty minutes is a pretty short period of time,” Flanagan said. “You can’t say ‘hi’ to everybody in 20 minutes.”

It is expected 12 jurors and at least four alternates will be chosen by the end of court Friday.

Murray, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death, would face up to four years in prison if the jury finds him guilty.

The “for cause” strikes were based mostly on written answers potential jurors gave to 113 questions earlier this month.

Lawyers had a week to study the questionnaire responses, a process they went through once before in April before the trial was delayed for several months.

“One of the things that we learned in the case the last go-around in the jury selection, it’s absolutely shocking how many jurors think already they know everything about this case,” defense lawyer Ed Chernoff said in an interview last week with Jean Casarez, a reporter with CNN sister network In Session.

Opening statements for the trial, which will be televised, are scheduled for September 27. The judge told members of the jury pool he expects their service will be over on or about October 28.

The Los Angeles coroner has ruled that Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009, was caused by an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol combined with other drugs.

Prosecutors have accused Murray, who served as Jackson’s personal and full-time physician at the time, of having a role in the overdose.

They contend Murray used a makeshift intravenous drip to administer propofol intended to help Jackson sleep, a practice they argue violated the standard of care and led to the pop music icon’s death.

Source Blucigs


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