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Michael Jackson jury will be 'poisoned' without sequestering, attorneys say

September 2, 2011 |  5:34 pm

http://www.latimes.com/media/photo/2010-02/52128667.jpg

Attorneys for the physician facing trial for Michael Jackson’s death asked an appellate court late Friday to order sequestration for jurors, calling a judge’s earlier order denying the defense’s request an “abuse of discretion.”

Without around-the-clock isolation, the jury will be “poisoned” by a flood of media reports and commentary on Dr. Conrad Murray’s involuntary manslaughter trial, the attorneys wrote. They cautioned that the level of coverage would be even more extensive than in Casey Anthony’s trial in Florida, in which they said cable personality Nancy Grace “used airtime to campaign for the conviction of Ms. Anthony.”

“It is Pollyanna to expect the jury members to go home each workday and weekend for six weeks and entirely avoid the mass of exposure this trial will engender,” Nareg Gourjian, one of Murray’s attorneys, wrote in Friday’s filing. He noted that, according to one database, there had already been 7,000 articles written on the case, and contended that it would be impossible for jurors to avoid outside information or opinion on the trial.

In the filing, defense attorneys noted that even prosecutors had written that they were “concerned about the risk of jury contamination” in a civil case brought by a British insurer over Jackson’s canceled concerts. Prosecutors this week asked for release of evidence to be delayed in that case, citing “significant, unrelenting media attention” and saying documents and photographs could be leaked to the media and affect potential jurors.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor twice denied the request for sequestration, saying he had faith that jurors would heed his warnings to avoid media coverage of the trial. He also said the court system could not afford the cost, given its dire financial situation.

Murray faces a maximum of four years in prison on the manslaughter charge. He is accused of causing Jackson’s death by overdose on a surgical anesthetic. Jury selection is set to begin Thursday.

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-- Victoria Kim and Harriet Ryan

Photo: Dr. Conrad Murray. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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