Ruling clears way for start of Jackson trial

September 7, 2011 1:35:56 PM PDT
An appeals court refused Wednesday to order the jury sequestered in the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, clearing the way for jury selection to begin Thursday.

The California 2nd District Court of Appeals also declined to delay the trial while the issue is argued. The court found that Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor did not abuse his discretion when he decided not to sequester.

Defense lawyers had argued that jurors would be "poisoned" by publicity unless they were kept in isolation during the trial. The defense predicted that jurors will be inundated with reports in supermarkets, bars, gyms and coffee shops, and on the Internet.

Pastor has said he trusts jurors to obey his orders to ignore publicity in the high-profile involuntary manslaughter case and declined to have them sequestered.

"The court has read and considered the petition," the brief court decision said. "The petition is denied in the absence of a showing of abuse of discretion."

In a separate ruling, Pastor gave the go ahead for a prosecution expert's testimony about a study of the drug that killed the pop star. But he delayed ruling on the admissibility of another study from Chile because it is apparently unpublished.

Defense lawyers say Jackson overdosed by drinking propofol when his doctor wasn't watching. Prosecutors say that was impossible. The drug is normally given intravenously.

The permitted study, which was published in Scandinavia, compares methods of administering propofol to piglets.

The second study by a noted Chilean anesthesiologist used volunteer students who drank propofol. Deputy District Attorney David Walgren said the report supports the opinion of prosecution expert Dr. Steven Shafer that "the rapid hepatic metabolism of propofol makes it impossible for Michael Jackson to have received a fatal overdose by drinking propofol."

He said that Shafer has submitted a written opinion that "there is zero possibility that the propofol was orally ingested."

Walgren quoted from Shafer's opinion that "there is almost nothing in Murray's care of Michael Jackson that reflected the actions of a trained physician."

He said that Shafer, an expert in anesthesiology will say that Murray is responsible for Jackson's death "through extreme and unconscionable violations of the standard of care."

A panel of 160 prospective jurors has been ordered to court for the first round of jury selection. They will be asked if any hardship prevents them from serving. If not, they will be given a 38-page questionnaire to fill out.

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