Conrad Murray's lawyers and prosecutors are close to finalizing a jury in the doctor's involuntary manslaughter trial over the death of Michael Jackson after selecting a pool of 145 potential jurors earlier this month.
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.
The lawyers met with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor on Wednesday, September 21, during which they said they have examined 80 out of 145 questionnaires filled out by potential jurors. The group was asked about their knowledge of the case as well as about Murray, Jackson, personal experience with propofol and other medications and histories of drug or alcohol abuses.
One of Murray's lawyers, Michael Flanagan, told reporters outside the court that they agreed to dismiss people who claimed they could not be fair and impartial in the trial. The number of people set to be excused was not revealed. Jury selection resumes officially on Friday. The judge ordered Murray to appear in court again then.
During Wednesday's hearing, the judge called Murray "Dr. Brown" by accident and appeared embarrassed by the blunder. The prosecutor corrected him.
"I'm sorry, I meant Dr. Murray," Pastor said.
"Well, in this courtroom, you get a lot of people," the prosecutor replied.
"Unfortunately, yes," Pastor said.
Kevin Brown, a South Los Angeles physician and the son of a former prime minister of Bermuda, had appeared before the judge earlier in the day after being found guilty in August of sexually assaulting several patients. His sentencing was postponed.
Murray, a cardiologist and surgeon, practiced medicine inside and outside of California in recent years. His medical license in the state was suspended earlier this year. Murray's licenses in Nevada and Texas remain intact but his criminal charges prompted local medical boards to issued restrictions that prohibits him from using or administering most anesthetic agents, including propofol.
Jury selection in Murray's trial began on September 8. The judge told prospective jurors that he wants them to "insulate" themselves when it comes to the case, despite the extensive media attention given to it.
Pastor had last month denied a bid by Murray's lawyers to try to have the jury sequestered, saying it is unrealistic to expect jurors to avoid hearing anything about the case outside of the court. He said he did not want to inconvenience jurors and make them feel like prisoners.
The judge has said the the trial will last until October 28. Opening statements are due on September 27. As is the case with all jury trials, the judge wants jurors to decide the case based on evidence presented in the courtroom.
Pastor told prospective jurors on Friday that they cannot discuss the proceedings with outsiders, including religious leaders or therapists. He said they are not allowed to read, listen or watch material about the case or write or talk about it online or via "telepathic communication," which drew some chuckles.
During the trial, 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.