|Jury Will Not Be Sequestered|
(25-8-2011) A judge on Thursday denied the defense request to sequester the jury in the upcoming involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, who is charged in the death of Michael Jackson.
Lawyers for Murray have insisted that media hype surrounding the case would make it impossible for jurors to not be influenced by the "court of public opinion" and that they should be isolated during the trial.
But Los angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor disagreed saying he did not want jurors to feel like "inmates," being supervised even when they contacted loved ones. Pastor also expressed confidence that the jury would heed his warnings to avoid exposure to media coverage.
"I expect that the jurors will follow the high road and that means that they will not be in the receipt of or in contact with information regarding this case outside the courtroom," Pastor said.
However, attorneys for Murray contended, in court papers, that "there is reasonable expectation that Dr. Murray's trial will be the most publicized in history."
They argued that the jury should be sequestered to ensure Murray receives a fair trial.
"This is an unusual trial," the attorneys said. "Without question, Michael Jackson is one of the most well-known figures in the world. His death, memorial service and every court appearance thereafter involving Dr. Murray has attracted unprecedented media coverage."
Prosecutors did not file court papers in response to the defense's motion. Instead, Deputy District Attorney David Walgren argued in open court on Thursday that sequestering the jury was unnecessary.
The defense also asked the judge to modify his earlier ruling allowing cameras into the courtroom during the trial. Chernoff asked that cameras be removed during certain, unflattering testimony, arguing that some TV commentators act like "quasi-jurors."
Judge Pastor rejected that motion, citing First Amendment freedoms.
Legal experts speaking to CNN offered differing opinions on sequestering a jury.
Marcia Clark, former presecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial, said the defense's motives here are obvious. "The defense wants to sequester the jury because it has seen that sequestered juries vote not guilty. I don't really think there's any need to sequester [this] jury. To the extent that people know about this case, know about Michael Jackson or Conrad Murray, it's over. It's already been done. It'd be like closing the barn doors after the horse is out."
Ellyn Garofalo, attorney for Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, who was acquitted on charges in the Anna Nicole Smith case said, "I think there is good reason to sequester a jury. I also tend to think - and this is more of a personal opinion - that a sequestered jury is not a happy jury and may be more anxious to get through the testimony than a jury that is not sequestered."
The next hearing is scheduled for what would have been Michael Jackson's 53rd birthday on Monday, August 29 on a prosecution motion to exclude or limit testimony by 26 defense witnesses.
Jury selection is set to begin next month with opening statements set for September 27. Both the defense and prosecution have told the judge they expect the trial to last four to five weeks, while Pastor indicated he thought it could be done in less time.
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