In an emergency appeal, lawyers for Michael Jackson’s doctor sought to overturn a judge’s refusal to sequester jurors, arguing they would be “poisoned” by publicity unless they were kept in isolation during the involuntary manslaughter trial.
Attorneys late Friday also asked to halt the start of jury selection on September 8 until the issue of sequestration is decided by California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal.
Dr. Conrad Murray is accused of giving Jackson an overdose of the anesthetic propofol in his home just before the pop star’s 2009 death. Jackson was said to be suffering from insomnia and was desperate for sleep. Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and could face up to four years in prison if convicted.
In a 28-page petition filed just before the long Labor Day holiday weekend, 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 organizations have planned sets overlooking the courthouse as if they were preparing for the Rose Bowl,” the attorneys said in the petition, referring to a major college football game in Southern California.
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 murder 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.