- Associated Press - Friday, September 9, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The first phase of jury selection in the trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor has concluded with 145 prospective jurors cleared for further questioning and the judge releasing the blank 30-page questionnaire they filled out.

Among the 113 questions asked of prospects was whether they ever considered themselves fans of Jackson or his family, whether they own any books or magazines about the King of Pop, and whether they have followed news coverage of the case against Dr. Conrad Murray.

Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor decided Friday there were sufficient prospective jurors available to go on to the next phase _ in-court questioning on Sept. 23.

Lawyers will begin studying the questionnaires in which participants also disclose their backgrounds and knowledge of Jackson’s career. Some could be dismissed if they expressed extreme bias.

Dr. Conrad Murray, a Houston cardiologist, has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

A judge lectured a panel of prospective jurors Friday on their duty to insulate themselves from information about the trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor and told them if they can’t promise to avoid Internet sites dealing with the case they will be dismissed.

“The electronic age is upon us,” said Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor, “and there are numerous mechanical devices for obtaining information.”

He reiterated concerns that the final jury chosen for the involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray will be unable to resist the lure of the Web.

“Some of us can’t avoid sharing our thoughts with a quarter of a million people every day,” he said in a reference to social networking. “We trust them … but we don’t know what their agenda is.”

Pastor also stressed the patriotic duty of jury service. And he had everyone rise and face the flag for a moment of silence in observance of the upcoming 9/11 anniversary.

Murray is charged with involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol on June 25, 2009. Murray has pleaded not guilty. He could face four years in prison and the loss of his medical license if convicted. The trial, expected to last about five-weeks, will focus on the Houston-based cardiologist’s actions in the final hours of Jackson’s life.

For much of his 40-minute speech to the jury pool, Pastor hammered away at the need to stay away from outside information about the trial. He mentioned Internet blogs, radio talk shows, TV, newspapers, magazines or even conversations with friends.

As on the first day of jury selection Thursday, not one person in Friday’s group of about 140 prospects raised a hand when asked if they didn’t know about the case. A few laughed lightly at the question.

Pastor told the panel he was doing a favor for the final jury by not sequestering them.

“I don’t want to treat you like prisoners,” he said. “I don’t think it’s healthy for you. It brings in an element of stress and anxiety that’s not good for you.”

In return, he said, they must voluntarily alter their lifestyles to avoid input about the case from outside the courtroom.

“Jurors are required to exercise discipline and restraint,” he said. “The parties in this case are depending on your integrity.”

Outside their presence, Pastor told lawyers he expected to have cleared about 100 prospective jurors to form a complete pool by the end of the day. More than half of the 187 people who reported for jury duty Thursday were dismissed because they could not devote the amount of time needed to hear the case.

In-person questioning of jurors will begin on Sept. 23. By then, some of those who filled out questionnaires will have been dismissed if they expressed extreme bias in writing.

___

AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.

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