LOS ANGELES — Lawyers in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by Michael Jackson’s mother began using challenges to reject prospective jurors Friday but were confronted with a new set of panelists who had strong opinions critical of the superstar singer.
The search was to continue Monday for jurors who could be impartial toward Jackson and AEG, the company that promoted Jackson’s ill-fated “This is It” concert.
No sooner had the attorneys excused two panelists for bias and used five of their 16 peremptory challenges to remove others without stating a cause than they were confronted with new problems.
One man said he had formed a strong opinion that Jackson was responsible for his own death.
“He was a weird person, too eccentric,” he said when asked his opinion of Jackson as a person.
The jury candidate, an attorney, said he had heard that Jackson took strong narcotics to sleep.
“So you had a strong opinion that Michael Jackson caused his own death by taking strong narcotics?” asked Mrs. Jackson’s attorney, Brian Panish.
“Yes,” said the man. “…That’s my opinion, not the facts, based on what I heard.” He said he learned most of what he knew about the case from the Internet.
“I don’t think I could be impartial,” he said.
Another prospective juror who is the son of a doctor said he had a strong bias against Jackson and thought that Dr. Conrad Murray was not at fault in the superstar’s death. He said he knew that Murray had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson an overdose of the anesthetic propofol.
“I don’t believe Dr. Murray did anything wrong,” said the man. “People take prescription drugs on their own. There may be some responsibility by Michael Jackson himself.”
The man said he is also biased against people who seek large monetary awards in lawsuits involving doctors. He said his late father was an orthopedic surgeon and told him about the pitfalls of malpractice claims against physicians.
Mrs. Jackson’s lawsuit claims AEG hired Dr. Conrad Murray as Jackson’s physician without checking his credentials. Murray was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of the superstar.
Attorneys said outside court that the jury selection process could stretch through next week.