Jury selection starts in Michael Jackson doctor trial

Thu Sep 8, 2011 7:19pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Attorneys in the manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson's doctor began jury selection on Thursday, but absent from the courthouse was the media circus that hovered around previous Jackson proceedings.

Only a handful of television cameras and few fans of the "Thriller" singer were on hand in downtown Los Angeles to watch prosecutors and defense lawyers for Dr. Conrad Murray begin the process of finding 12 people to decide if Murray is responsible for Jackson's death by drug overdose.

Murray, flanked by his attorneys, sat in the jury room stone-faced and looking straight ahead as the day began. Over 180 potential jurors were called, and members of the pool were told to describe any hardship they might face in a trial expected to last 25 days.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor asked if any of them were unfamiliar with the case. None raised a hand.

Pastor did not seem surprised that, even with such an unusually large jury pool, all the potential panelists knew at least some details of the death of one of the world's best-known pop stars, a member of the Jackson 5 and solo artist whose "Thriller" remains the best-selling album ever.

"We didn't expect that you'd been living under a rock for the last few years, or that you had made a pit stop here from Mars," Pastor said.

At age 50, Jackson stopped breathing at his rented Los Angeles mansion on June 25, 2009, in what authorities say was an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol and sedatives.

Murray had been caring for Jackson at the time he died, and the doctor has admitted giving him propofol, a drug normally used for surgery, to help Jackson sleep. But Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter.   Continued...

<p>Doctor Conrad Murray, the late Michael Jackson's personal physician, listens during his arraignment on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the pop star's death, in Los Angeles, January 25, 2011. REUTERS/Pool/Irfan Khan</p>