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Michael Jackson case: Judge blasts celebrity website for posting 'bogus' jury questions

March 24, 2011 |  3:04 pm

The judge presiding over the trial of Michael Jackson's personal physician blasted a website Thursday for posting what he described as "bogus" information about a questionnaire that prospective jurors are filling out.

In an apparent reference to a TMZ.com story that purported to detail questions proposed by Dr. Conrad Murray's defense, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said the information was wrong.

"Not one of the questions from that questionnaire posted online is part of this court's questionnaire," Pastor said.

The judge had earlier ordered the questionnaire sealed until after the entire jury pool completed it and said he was worried the TMZ story and a "tongue-in-cheek" questionnaire posted on a second website might affect the answers that prospective panelists provide.

About 160 potential jurors were sworn in Thursday morning, marking the official start of Murray's trial.

The cardiologist is accused of involuntary manslaughter for allegedly giving the pop star a fatal dose of the surgical anesthetic propofol. Murray's defense contends that Jackson administered the drug himself.

Testimony in the case is scheduled to get underway next month.

Defense attorneys told Pastor in chambers that the jury questions reported by TMZ.com came from a media company hired by the defense. The company had suggested six possible questions for the jury pool, none of which were included in the final questionnaire, the attorneys said.

“One of the employees had leaked those questions,” Ed Chernoff, Murray’s lead attorney, told the judge, according to a transcript of the in-chambers discussion. “The questions that they had recommended to us, they leaked those to TMZ, and that is where the story came from.”

Chernoff apologized for the leak and said the company would be fired.

The judge told the attorneys that the incident “shows us that we need a very small circle of people around us” but did not say if any further action would be taken.

Earlier in the day, Pastor asked 159 potential jurors gathered in an assembly room if any of them had not heard of the case. Two jurors raised their hands. Jury selection is expected to continue Friday.

-- Victoria Kim at L.A. County Superior Court