LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The jury in the upcoming involuntary manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor will not be sequestered, despite a request by defense lawyers who expect the case to be “the most publicized in history.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor ruled against removing the jurors from their homes during the four- to six-week trial starting in September, citing the estimated $500,000 cost and saying he had “tremendous faith” in the jury system.
“I do not find sequestration to be the answer in this case,” Pastor said at a hearing on Thursday. “I expect that the jurors will follow the high road.”
Jury selection is due to start on September 8 for the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, with opening statements expected on September 27.
Murray, who was at Jackson’s side when he died in Los Angeles on June 25, 2009, is accused of delivering a fatal dose of the powerful anesthetic propofol to the pop star as a sleep aid, and then failing to monitor him properly.
Murray could face up to four years in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The defense team has suggested that Jackson, 50, could have given himself a larger dose of the drug while the doctor was out of the singer’s bedroom. They have argued that massive expected media coverage of the trial could jeopardize the doctor’s right to fair trial.
“There is reasonable expectation that Dr. Murray’s trial will be the most publicized in history,” Murray’s lawyers wrote in their request for jury sequestration.
Pastor said he would give strict instructions to the jury to avoid reading or watching media reports of the trial, and said they would be eating their meals in the jury room during the court day to restrict their exposure to the public.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte