LOS ANGELES, Aug 26 – A US judge refused Thursday to sequester the jury in the trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor for involuntary manslaughter, despite a case the defense says could be “the most publicized in history.”
“I do not find sequestration to be the answer in this case,” Judge Michael Pastor said at a hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court.
In a request filed last week, attorneys for Conrad Murray said the jury should be sequestered “in order to ensure that it is free from outside influences and guarantee the defendant a fair trial by an impartial jury.”
The doctor’s defense team said it would be “Pollyanna to expect the jury members to go home each workday and weekend for six weeks and entirely avoid the mass of exposure this trial will engender.”
Prosecutors opposed the request, with Deputy District Attorney David Walgren saying, “We feel at some point there has to be a level of trust granted to jurors.”
Pastor confirmed that he would give strict instructions to the jurors, and that he expected them to “follow the high road.”
“If this were a close call, I would unhesitatingly order sequestration,” the judge said, adding that jurors will eat their meals in a jury room, so they will not be exposed to media pressure during the day.
Murray, the last doctor to treat Jackson, is on trial for involuntary homicide in the “King of Pop’s” death on June 25, 2009 after an overdose of the anesthesia propofol, which the 50-year-old singer used as a sleeping aid.
Murray, who was in charge of administering the powerful drug to the star, faces up to four years in prison if convicted.
His defense team is expected to argue that Jackson gave himself an excessive dose of the drug while the doctor was out of the room at the singer’s mansion in the affluent Holmby Hills neighborhood west of Los Angeles.
Jury selection will begin on September 8, with opening statements scheduled for the end of next month.
A new hearing is however set for Monday to examine a request from prosecutors, who hope to exclude or limit certain testimony from defense witnesses.
They are specifically concerned about the testimony of a police officer who participated in the investigation into accusations of pedophilia against Jackson in 2003, for which he was acquitted.
“The current case should focus on the events surrounding the medical care provided to Michael Jackson by Conrad Murray,” Walgren said.
“The case should not be allowed to deteriorate into an unfair, unwarranted and irrelevant attack on the deceased victims.”