THE extensive connections of Michael Jackson, his family and friends have been a challenge for a US judge trying to select an impartial jury for his mother’s wrongful death lawsuit against the company that promoted Jackson’s ill-fated This is It concert.
As individual questioning finally began on Monday, some jury prospects who had passed the written portion of the process had to be excused because of personal connections.
Among them was David Walsh, a Canadian singer-songwriter who said he had met members of the musical Jackson family and was friends with Lisa Marie Presley, Jackson’s ex-wife. He said his own manager was on the witness list.
“I’ve had friends in Michael’s band and my best friend was a backup singer on the This is It concert,” Walsh said.
Walsh said he had formed opinions about the case that were probably unshakeable.
Katherine Jackson’s suit claims AEG endangered Jackson’s life by hiring an incompetent doctor, Conrad Murray, to look after the superstar singer.
AEG lawyers are expected to argue that Jackson was complicit in his own demise by insisting on hiring Murray and demanding the anaesthetic propofol to help him sleep.
The latest phase of jury selection came after jurors filled out questionnaires about their views on Jackson, his family and his life and death.
A preliminary group of 104 prospects was immediately reduced by six when members reported hardships or acquaintances on the witness list.
By day’s end, 17 prospects had been excused, most because the extended length of the trial would cause them financial hardship. The case is expected to last for months.
More panellists sent notes to Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos before court recessed for the day, asking to be excused.
One member of the jury pool said he had met Dr Conrad Murray at a barbecue sometime after Jackson’s death and they had a social conversation. But he said he didn’t realise who Murray was, and once he did he stopped talking to him. He remained on the panel.
Murray is serving a prison term after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death from an overdose of propofol. Jackson died in his bed in June 2009 at the age of 50.
Complicating the case is the fact that neither Jackson nor AEG had signed Murray’s $US150,000 ($A146,092)-a-month contract. Jackson died before Murray was paid.
Katherine Jackson’s lawyers contend AEG was negligent in failing to investigate Murray’s qualifications before hiring him.