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Concern over finding jurors for Conrad Murray trial

March 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Jury selection got under way Thursday in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray. He is charged in the death of Michael Jackson.

Media hype over Jackson's death and the trial of his doctor drew the scorn of the court. Judge Michael Pastor said he is concerned about the fairness to the process and defendant, as an Internet site claimed to know what was on the juror questionnaire.

The judge identifies TMZ and blasted the purported questions as bogus. He warned of the potential for skewing information and impacting juror opinions.

The source of the inaccurate questions was traced to an agency that did freelance work for the defense attorneys who suggested possible questions. That agency has been fired.

Meantime, 159 people were summoned for the first round of screening. The crowd was so large that court was convened in the jury assembly room.

The first issue concerns economic hardship. Who can afford to serve as many as 45 days? And if not, what is the nature of the hardship?

The judge announced the trial would begin in May and is set to last until July 1, which set off a wave of murmurs.

The judge also asked jurors who had not heard of the case? Two hands were raised out of 159.

Murray says he is not guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Jackson. Attorneys are concerned about gathering a pool of potential jurors who can fairly try him.

After potential jurors complete the hardship round, they go on to complete the 29-page confidential questionnaire designed to identify extreme biases. All are warned that the responses to all questions must be true and honest under the penalty of perjury.

A false statement could lead to a sentence of 4 years in prison. That term is potentially the same length of time Murray would face if he is convicted.