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Michael Jackson death: 12 jurors to be chosen in doctor's trial

Jury to be selected in Dr. Conrad Murray's trial
On Friday, 145 potential jurors will be narrowed down to a dozen to decide the fate of Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray.

Murray, Jackson's $150,000-a-month personal physician, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and administering a lethal dose of the surgical anesthetic propofol. Murray has pleaded not guilty. The jury is expected to hear about five weeks of testimony.

The prospective jurors have already completed a 32-page questionnaire about their background, job history, views of Jackson and exposure to the media coverage of his 2009 overdose.

Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor, the judge in the case, has called it "the most complete questionnaire ever." In an initial screening earlier this month, every potential juror said they had some knowledge of the involuntary manslaughter case against Murray.

Because the questionnaire is so thorough, Pastor has said he will allow attorneys only half the normally allotted time to question the would-be jurors as a group in court.

With less than a minute per potential juror, lawyers are likely to have decided beforehand "whether they want to keep them or get rid of them," said Richard Hirschorn, a veteran Texas jury consultant.

Murray's defense lawyers retained an unidentified jury consultant to help evaluate the questionnaires. The prosecutor's office has used such consultants in the past but elected not to this time.

"It's very lean times for public prosecutors' offices," said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.

In evaluating the questionnaires, experts said, both sides are likely to home in on the questions they care about most. Hirschorn said prosecutors might focus on what jurors wrote about their experiences with doctors and prescription drugs. Particularly revealing, he said, was the question, "Has a physician ever refused to prescribe a medication that you specifically requested?"

"That's the prosecution case in one sentence — Murray should have said no" to his famous patient, Hirschorn said. People who have been turned down by doctors may be more critical of Murray's acquiescence: "I'm putting them on the jury 99 out of 100 times," he said.

Legal teams typically rank jurors from one to five based on their answers and information turned up by Internet or public searches. In court Friday, experts said, both sides are likely to focus on the jurors they rank as ones — the worst for their case.

"It's not a matter of picking the people you want. It's really a de-selection process: getting rid of the worst of the worst and hoping the ones that are left can be fair," said Hirschorn, who worked for the defense in the William Kennedy Smith rape trial in the early 1990s.

Both sides can excuse 10 potential jurors without giving a reason. Additionally, they can ask the judge to remove anyone who shows bias.

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-- Harriet Ryan

Photo: Michael Jackson's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, right, with his attorney Edward Chernoff at Los Angeles Criminal Courts. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

 
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