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CALIFORNIA Jury selected for Michael Jackson molestation trial



Published: Thu, February 24, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Alternate jury selection is scheduled to continue today.

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) -- Well ahead of schedule, a jury was selected Wednesday to decide Michael Jackson's fate on charges that he molested a teenage boy at his Neverland Ranch.

"We have a jury," Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville announced.

The panel consists of four men and eight women, ranging in age from 20 to 79.

After the jury was sworn in, attorneys moved on to the selection of eight alternate jurors.

Jury selection had been expected to last several weeks, but took only five court days, which were interrupted by a one-week break due to the death of an attorney's sister and another one-week break because Jackson was hospitalized with flulike symptoms.

Selection moved at a fast pace when the judge imposed tight time limits on how long each prospective juror could be questioned.

Jurors

Among the jurors were a woman who said her grandson was required to register as a sexual offender because of a crime; a 20-year-old man who likes "The Simpsons" TV show; and a man who likes Western art and country music.

One of the jurors had been asked during selection if he recognized celebrity witnesses in the case including self-help guru Deepak Chopra. He responded, "I think he's a rapper."

Some prospective alternate jurors were dismissed for hardship because of job commitments and several others because of personal experiences that could affect their judgment.

One of those excused said he was close friends with one of Jackson's cousins and also said his children had been to the pop star's Neverland ranch and had watched a movie and had ice cream with Jackson.

Selection of the alternate panel was to continue today.

The initial phase of seating a jury began Jan. 31 with the judge questioning hundreds of prospects about whether they had any hardships that would prevent them from serving on the projected six-month trial. By the next day a pool of 243 prospects had been formed for individual questioning by lawyers.

Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy, plying him with alcohol, and conspiring to hold him and his family captive.

During questioning of prospective jurors, defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. asked prospects about their interest in the arts, their feelings toward Jackson and whether they believed child witnesses could be led to lie. The defense will argue that the mother of Jackson's accuser has told him to lie.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen's questions included whether prospects were fans of Jackson, and whether they had seen a recent Fox News interview with Geraldo Rivera in which Jackson said many of the news reports about him are untrue.




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