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OTRC: Conrad Murray trial: Jury selection begins

In this file photo, Dr. Conrad Murray arrives at his clinic in Houston on Nov. 23, 2009. (Pat Sullivan)

Jury selection in the trial of Conrad Murray, charged with involuntary manslaughter over the death of Michael Jackson, has begun.

Autopsy results have shown that Jackson, the King of Pop, died at age 50 at his Los Angeles on June 25, 2009 from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol and other sedatives. Murray was by the singer's side of the day he died and pleaded not guilty in January to a charge of involuntary manslaughter. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted. His lawyers say Jackson drank propofol while the doctor was away from his bedside.

On Thursday, September 8, a group of 187 prospective jurors attended an initial screening to determine if they are available to serve on the jury during the trial. Murray was present during the proceedings. He greeted the group with "Good morning, all," and was greeted back. He then sat quietly and looked straight ahead as the judge explained the selection process.

Out of the group of 185, 115 were dismissed and 72 filled out a 30-page questionnaire about their personal beliefs and knowledge of the case. On September 23, a trimmed-down group of 100 prospective jurors will return for more screening until a jury is chosen.

The judge also told them to avoid using Twitter during the trial or reading Tweets about it. Such behavior is typically discouraged in a bid to promote objectivity.

However, the judge told them they can use the Internet to "Google their hearts" out but could not research anything about the case. They were also told they cannot discuss the trial with anyone, especially the press, or make any deals to publish details about it for at least 90 days after sentencing.

The trial will last until October 28, the judge said. Opening arguments in the trial are set to begin on September 27.

On Wednesday, the California Court of Appeal denied a bid by Murray's attorneys to overturn a judge's refusal to sequester jurors of the trial, clearing the way for the proceedings to begin on schedule.

Conrad Murray's lawyers wanted future jurors to be "insulated" from what they call "pervasive media coverage" of the trial. Last month, Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor ruled against removing jurors from their homes, saying he did not want to inconvenience potential jurors and make them feel like prisoners. He also said jury sequestration would cost the court more than $500,000.

During the proceedings, jurors must eat all their meals in a secluded room and will not be allowed to roam the hallways of the courthouse. The judge has already made several rulings about what can and what cannot be presented during the trial.

A Norway study involving intravenous and rectal administration of propofol in piglets can be cited and is set to be used as basis for one expert's opinion on whether propofol would have any effect if ingested. Flanagan opposed the inclusion of the experiment, saying that it was not carried out on humans.

The judge has yet to rule on whether a Chile study of propofol that did involve human subjects can be mentioned during the proceedings.

Witnesses will not be allowed to testify about the King of Pop's 2005 child molestation case, during which the singer was found not guilty, a judge ruled on August 29, adding that such information is irrelevant to Murray's case and would be distracting and misleading for the jury.

The judge also posed more hurdles for Murray's attorneys. He said that Arnold Klein, Jackson's dermatologist, is not allowed to testify at the involuntary manslaughter trial.

Murray's attorneys had said that Klein had prescribed the painkiller Demerol to Jackson and that the singer was withdrawing from it at the time of his death. Prosecutors said the defense was trying to divert attention from Murray and pin the blame on Klein.

Others barred from testifying - a police detective who searched Jackson's Neverland Ranch while he was being investigated for child molestation, Grace Rwaramba, former nanny of the singer's children and Chris Carter, a former bodyguard.

Among those who will be allowed to testify at Murray's trial - Karen Faye, Jackson's makeup artist and hair stylist, who has said she became worried about the singer's health prior to his death, physicians David Adams and Allen Metzger and the King of Pop's nurse, Cherylin Lee.

Pastor ruled several months ago that jurors at Murray's trial will be allowed to see autopsy photos of Jackson.