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Michael Jackson death: Lawyer Connie Rice excused as possible juror

September 23, 2011 |  1:39 pm

Conrad Murray and attorney 
Prominent civil-rights attorney Connie Rice will not be a juror in the trial of Michael Jackson’s personal physician.

Prosecutors used one of 10 peremptory challenges to excuse Rice, a longtime critic of the Los Angeles Police Department, the agency that investigated and arrested Dr. Conrad Murray.

Attorneys are not required to explain why they dismiss certain potential jurors.

Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren had questioned Rice about whether she could abide by jurors’ “limited role” and accept that there may be unanswered questions in a case. Rice said she could.

“Extraneous information or other considerations or possibilities, they don’t play any role after you have the evidence,” she said.

Earlier Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor had noted her role as “an advocate” in the justice system and asked if she could be impartial. She answered yes.

A panel of 12 is to be finalized Friday afternoon. Attorneys used their time questioning jurors as an opportunity to preview their case.

Murray, 58, stands accused of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s 2009 overdose on the surgical anesthetic propofol. He has pleaded not guilty.

The defense is expected to argue that Jackson was a desperate addict who begged Murray for propofol and gave himself the fatal dose.

Lead defense attorney Ed Chernoff suggested negative information about Jackson may emerge during the trial. He asked panelists what they knew about the singer’s life and personality.

“I think of him as a child, his dancing, his music,” one woman queried replied.

Was he so childlike he was incapable of making decision, the attorney pressed. No, the woman answered.

Turning to the entire group, Chernoff asked if they believed “Michael Jackson should be held to a different standard of responsibility?” No hands were raised.

Walgren focused his questions on whether panelists could convict Murray if they found Jackson had contributed to his own death.

The prosecutor asked would-be jurors to consider a hypothetical situation where a reckless driver runs a red light and kills a pedestrian who was “also not being safe as he could be and steps out in front of a car.”

“You could say the driver is not 100% responsible, but he did play a substantial role,” Walgren said, echoing the wording of the involuntary manslaughter charge.

“Could you find him guilty?” he asked juror after juror.

All said they could, but one man asked if the pedestrian had used a crosswalk. Prosecutors later dismissed that juror.

Chernoff objected at two points to Walgren’s use of the term “victim” in his questioning.

“There is no proof of a ‘victim,’” Chernoff complained.

The judge ordered the prosecutor to use the phrase “alleged victim.”

If convicted, Murray faces a maximum of four years in prison and the likely loss of his medical license.


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-- Harriet Ryan and Victoria Kim at Los Angeles Hall of Justice

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