Final step in jury selection under way for Conrad Murray trial

Dr. Conrad Murray is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of pop star Michael Jackson.

Story highlights

  • 84 potential jurors, including six African-Americans, remain in the jury pool
  • Jury selection "is going to go very fast," defense lawyer Michael Flanagan says
  • Jury selection is expected to be wrapped up Friday
  • Opening statements in the trial of Michael Jackson's lawyer are set for Tuesday
Face-to-face questioning of potential jurors to hear the case against Michael Jackson's doctor began in a packed Los Angeles courtroom Friday morning, four days ahead of the opening statements and testimony.
The pool of 84 potential jurors in court appeared diverse, although only six were African-American.
Each side will be allowed 10 "peremptory challenges," allowing them to get rid of jurors without stating a reason.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers mutually agreed in closed-door sessions Wednesday and Thursday on which potential jurors in a pool of 145 were too biased to put their prejudices aside to decide if Dr. Conrad Murray is criminally responsible for the pop icon's death, according to Murray defense lawyer Michael Flanagan.
"Both sides just want to get a fair jury that hasn't made up their mind and is willing to make a decision based upon the facts," Flanagan said after Thursday's jury selection session.
Lead defense lawyer Ed Chernoff said there were no surprising reasons for striking jurors "for cause," and the pool was filled with people who could be open-minded. "Time ameliorates things," Chernoff said.
Flanagan predicted Thursday afternoon that Friday's jury selection would "go very fast."
While most judges allow defense lawyers an hour to question potential jurors, Pastor is allowing just 20 minutes for each side, Flanagan said.
"Twenty minutes is a pretty short period of time," Flanagan said. "You can't say 'hi' to everybody in 20 minutes."
It is expected 12 jurors and six alternates will be chosen by the end of court Friday.
Murray, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's death, would face up to four years in prison if the jury finds him guilty.
The "for cause" strikes were based mostly on written answers potential jurors gave to 113 questions earlier this month.
Lawyers had a week to study the questionnaire responses, a process they went through once before in April before the trial was delayed for several months.
"One of the things that we learned in the case the last go-around in the jury selection, it's absolutely shocking how many jurors think already they know everything about this case," Chernoff said in an interview last week with Jean Casarez, a reporter with CNN sister network In Session.
Opening statements for the trial, which will be televised, are scheduled for September 27. The judge told members of the jury pool he expects their service will be over on or about October 28.
The Los Angeles coroner has ruled that Jackson's death on June 25, 2009, was caused by an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol combined with other drugs.
Prosecutors have accused Murray, who served as Jackson's personal and full-time physician at the time, of having a role in the overdose.
They contend Murray used a makeshift intravenous drip to administer propofol intended to help Jackson sleep, a practice they argue violated the standard of care and led to the pop music icon's death.