LAWYERS FOR MICHAEL JACKSON’S doctor have launched a late bid to overturn a judge’s refusal to sequester jurors in his trial, arguing that they would be “poisoned” by publicity unless they were kept in isolation during his trial for involuntary manslaughter.
Dr Conrad Murray is accused of giving Jackson an overdose of propofol, an anesthetic, in his home just before the pop star’s death in 2009. Jackson was said to be suffering from insomnia and was desperate for sleep.
Last night his lawyers also asked that the selection of a jury, currently set for next Thursday, be delayed until the issue of sequestration is decided by California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal.
In a 28-page petition filed just before the long weekend for Labour Day, lawyers challenged a recent ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor in which he expressed faith in jurors’ ability to ignore publicity about the high-profile case.
Attorneys Nareg Gourjian and Edward Chernoff said in their petition that it would be impossible for jurors to avoid media reports and commentary unless they were placed in a hotel during Murray’s trial.
They acknowledged that their request was extraordinary, but said Jackson’s legacy as one of the biggest celebrities in the world would feed extensive news coverage of the trial.
They predicted that jurors will be inundated with reports in supermarkets, bars, gyms and coffee shops and on the Internet.
“News organisations have planned sets overlooking the courthouse as if they were preparing for the Rose Bowl,” the attorneys said in the petition.
A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office said they would have no comment on the petition.
Four pages of the appeal were devoted to the recently concluded Casey Anthony trial in Florida and the CNN commentary of Nancy Grace, who attorneys said campaigned for Anthony’s conviction. Defense attorneys predicted similarly opinionated commentary on the Murray trial.
“There is sincere danger that a well-meaning juror will be more impressed with an ‘expert’ on television than one presented by the parties at trial,” the petition said.
Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and could face up to four years in prison if convicted.