Friday, September 9, 2011

Conrad Murray Trial: MSM Jury Selection Coverage

Dr. Conrad Murray, at a prior pretrial hearing.

UPDATE: 12 Noon: USA Today is reporting:

A judge presiding over the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor said Friday he expects to have enough prospective jurors to form a complete pool by the end of the day, meaning lawyers could prepare to begin the screening process to select a final panel.

I've read bits and pieces around the web of the first day of jury selection. Famed journalist Linda Deutsch from the Associated Press was the lone "pool" reporter on the first day. Approximately 450 potential jurors were sent a jury summons notice. The first batch (187 according to CNN & the AP) showed up on Thursday. Another group will show up today and the last group on Monday. After jurors are excused for hardship, the remaining jurors will receive a thirty-page questionnaire to fill out that Judge Pastor has called "exhaustive."

There are four public seats available and a lottery is held for those seats each day. Yesterday, In Session's Jean Casarez got into jury selection via the public lottery.

Local ABC 7's Mirian Hernandez's story was the first report I read that indicated jury selection was being conducted in an assembly hall, and not Judge Pastor's courtroom, specifically. (Judge Pastor's courtroom barely holds 80 people in the gallery.) I'm not exactly sure where this assembly hall is in the Criminal Court building but I will try to find out.

From my understanding, Judge Pastor was looking to obtain at least 100 pre-screened jurors to fill out the extensive questionnaire. Once those questionnaires are completed and copies provided to counsel, the most important part of the trial, voir dire, is scheduled to begin Friday, September 23rd. Voir dire will continue until 12 jurors and 6 alternates are selected.

Why do I call vior dire the most important part of the trial? Every individual I've ever consulted who has attended, reported on, or participated in a court trial in some capacity has told me the outcome of a trial starts and ends with voir dire. No matter how compelling the evidence against a defendant, if a thorough voir dire isn't conducted the case can easily be lost. (It's my personal opinion that the outcome of the Casey Anthony trial in Florida was the result of a rushed voir dire process (with no jury questionnaire) that Judge Belvin Perry conducted, but I digress.)

Optimistically, opening statements are tentatively scheduled to begin on Tuesday, September 27th. That's the day I expect there will be a large public showing to get into the lottery for what public seats are available. Not only will the public be vying for these seats, but those journalists that were unable to get a reserved seat will be using this avenue as well.

Although I will not be attending this trial, I will try to follow it as best I can until the Lazarus case kicks off. If you have a question, please leave a comment and I will do my best to try to answer.

KTLA First Day Coverage

KFI's Eric Leonard's Coverage

CNN Coverage

In Session

Los Angeles Times Coverage

Jury Questionnaire (via KTLA)