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Michael Jackson trial: Lawyers to question jurors

September 22, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The final phase of jury selection is about to get under way in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson's personal physician.

The international fame of Jackson invited worldwide scrutiny of his death and the doctor who allegedly caused it.

Dr. Conrad Murray, a cardiologist Jackson met in Las Vegas, is accused of administering the hospital sedative propofol in the Holmby Hills home of the pop star without proper monitoring.

Murray says he is innocent and that the dosage was too small to cause any ill effect.

The prosecutors and Murray's defense team seek a fair-minded jury, which will have to weigh tedious scientific testimony in a case charged with emotion. Jackson fans and famous family members will be in the courtroom every day.

"In death he has become more beloved than in the last 10 years of his life," said defense attorney Mark Geragos.

Geragos is a veteran of hi-profile cases, and once defended Jackson on molestation charges. The questionnaires filled out by 145 prospective jurors he says may not reveal hidden bias.

"Anybody who has a couple of neurons firing and their synapses are working can figure what a lawyer wants to see," said Geragos. "Until you look them in the eye, until you see body language, micro expressions and everything else, you don't know what else is really going on."

On Friday, scores of jurors will be questioned face-to-face by attorneys. A key objective is to root out the person who seems to seek the spotlight, ignoring the testimony.

"A stealth juror is the prosecution's worst nightmare and the defense's worst nightmare," said Geragos. "Because if you get somebody on there who decides that they want to get on that jury whether it be for 15 minutes of fame, like the Blake case where somebody came out and tried to sell his CD immediately, that is a problem."

No one will know the names of the jurors- their identities are under seal. There is also no way to conduct a background check of an individual beyond what he or she discloses.

The prosecution and defense will have only 10 chances each to reject a prospective juror. And they must size them up in a matter of minutes.

"So you have to have the ability at least to try and suss out each person, who they are, within less than a minute-and-a-half," said Geragos. "And I don't know this is so much a science as it is an art form."

All the prospective jurors are ordered to appear in court at 8 a.m. on Friday. Opening statements are set for Tuesday.

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