NEW: One alternate juror is dismissed after questions are raised about her
7 men and 5 women -- none of them African-American -- are picked as jurors
Opening statements in Murray's trial are on track for Tuesday
Murray is charged with involuntary manslaughter in Michael Jackson's death
A jury of seven men and five women was chosen Friday in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Conrad Murray, the doctor accused of having a role in singer Michael Jackson’s death.
None of these jurors is African-American, the race of Jackson and Murray. One African-American woman was stricken “for cause” after she began crying during questioning. The prosecution used two of its 10 “strikes” to dismiss two other African-Americans, including a man who manages social workers.
By about 3:45 p.m., defense lawyers and prosecutors had also selected the six people who will serve as alternate jurors over the course of a trial expected to last five weeks.
All the jurors – the 12 primary ones and the alternates – were sworn in.
But soon thereafter, a person who had been a prospective juror raised questions about a woman who had been picked as one of the alternates. After private discussions, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor dismissed the woman, leaving five alternate jurors.
“It seems like a good jury panel,” defense lawyer Michael Flanagan said.
The entire process sets the stage for opening statements Tuesday.
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 Murray is criminally responsible for the pop icon’s death, according to Flanagan.
On Friday morning, Pastor swore in 84 prospective jurors in a packed courtroom. That set off what Deputy District Attorney David Walgren described as “a courtroom version of speed dating.”
Each side was given barely 20 minutes to question the first 27 potential jurors about their ability to decide guilt and innocence without what they already know or believe biasing them.
The face-to-face interaction helped them decide how to use the 10 peremptory challenges allotted to each side, in which they can dismiss prospective jurors without stating a reason.
Walgren used much of his time to gauge the potential jurors’ willingness to find someone guilty if they were significantly responsible for a death even though the alleged victim shared some responsibility.
A man who appeared to hesitate when asked if that was fair was the first prospective juror stricken from the jury pool by the prosecution.
One woman said she’d “prefer not to be in a position where I would have to judge,” but she assured the judge she could be a fair juror.
“If I have a job to do, then I finish it,” she said. The prosecution struck her from the jury.
A prospective male juror said he always turned the channel when there was news coverage of Jackson’s death on television, so it would be easy for him to be fair since “everything I hear would be for the first time.” The prosecution also used a peremptory strike to have him dismissed from the pool.
Ten people were quickly dismissed Friday after they told the judge that serving in a five-week trial would be a financial or family hardship.
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.
The “for cause” strikes were based mostly on written answers potential jurors gave earlier this month to 113 questions.
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.
Murray could face up to four years in prison if the jury finds him guilty.
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.