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All potential jurors in Conrad Murray trial aware of case

As jury selection got underway Thursday, Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor asked the approximately 160 prospective jurors if anyone had not heard of the case they may be asked to decide -- the involuntary manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray.

Not one person raised a hand.

"We didn't expect that you've been living under a rock for the last few years, or you'd made a pit stop here from Mars," Pastor quipped in the downtown Los Angeles courtroom.

The last time the judge had polled a jury pool, only one person said she had not heard of the case -- and the woman did not speak English.

Pastor cautioned potential panelists that because of the extensive publicity surrounding the case, they were going to have to take care to avoid any outside information about the trial -- especially in navigating the Web.

They are not to post any messages on social media, send or read Tweets or Google information about the case, he said. If they do, they could face jail time or fines for contempt of court.

"I certainly realize that for many of us, searching the Internet is as easy as breathing," he said.

Pastor told the prospective jurors that he had the option of ordering the panel sequestered throughout the trial, but had chosen not to. He said he was "reiterating [his] faith" in the jurors in doing so.

Instead, the jury deciding the case will be bused to the court from a secret location each morning, and escorted away every night. Jurors will not be allowed to leave the courthouse during the day, and will be served lunch at the court.

The potential jurors were then asked to fill out forms about whether serving on the jury would impose hardship on them.

Outside court, a lone supporter for Murray carried a sign reading: "I support Dr. Conrad Murray, an innocent man who must be exonerated."

Willie L. Hampton, 55, who said he was a friend of Murray's of three decades, said he shook hands with the many Jackson fans and agreed to keep peace.

Murray faces up to four years in prison for allegedly causing the death of his famous patient by overdose on a surgical anesthetic. The main trial is expected to begin later this month with opening statements.


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-- Victoria Kim and pool reports

Photo: Dr. Conrad Murray listens to the prosecution's case at a court hearing in February. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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