- Associated Press - Friday, September 23, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A judge and lawyers closed in Friday on seating a jury in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson’s personal physician after questioning candidates about their attitudes toward the King of Pop and the doctor charged with causing his death.

Deputy District Attorney David Walgren joked with prospective jurors that the process seemed like “the courtroom version of speed dating, trying to get the most information in a short time.”

Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor, determined to move the process quickly, gave each side only 20 minutes to question the first 27 prospects.

He swore in the group, marking the official start of the trial more than two years after Jackson’s death in June 2009 at the age of 50. After months of investigation, Murray was charged with involuntary manslaughter in February 2010 and both sides have jockeyed to frame the case in their favor.

Prosecutors contend Murray was negligent in administering to Jackson a lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol and other sedatives in the bedroom of the singer’s rented mansion without proper life-saving equipment.

Murray’s attorneys have floated theories that the singer may have given himself the fatal dosage and say the Houston-based cardiologist did not give the singer anything that should have killed him.

Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and could face four years in prison and loss of his medical license if convicted.

As might be expected, the personality and life of the late singer dominated much of the jury questioning.

“Part of this trial is going to be about Michael Jackson,” said defense attorney Ed Chernoff. “We’re not going to drag up stuff that happened that people may not want to hear about.”

But he immediately asked panelists how they remembered Jackson.

One woman said, “as a child with the Jackson Five.”

He then asked if she felt that Jackson was childlike in adulthood. She answered no. He asked the entire panel if they saw Jackson as so childlike that he might not be able to make responsible decisions.

“Does anybody here believe Michael Jackson was less capable of making decisions than anybody else?” Chernoff said.

Jurors shook their heads no.

“Does anybody feel Michael Jackson should be held to a different standard of responsibility?” the lawyer asked.

Again, jurors indicated negatively.

During his questioning, prosecutor Walgren framed the issue differently. He wanted to know if a “victim” in a hypothetical car accident could be held partially responsible for his own death if he walked in front of a driver who was running red lights and driving recklessly.

The defense objected to the term “victim,” and Walgren changed it to “alleged victim.”

He was probing whether panelists might hold Jackson partially responsible for his own demise and thus absolve Murray of responsibility. None said they would.

Bailiffs marched 84 potential jurors into the courtroom, but 10 were quickly dismissed because they said they could no longer serve on such a long case.

Each side used eight of their 10 allotted peremptory challenges before the lunch break and were questioning more prospects.


AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.

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