10-28-2016  1:24 am      •     

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Jury selection started Thursday under tight security in the long-awaited trial of the doctor charged in the death of Michael Jackson, with the judge urging potential jurors to focus on the facts of the case.

Michael Jackson's name was mentioned just once, but his celebrity was omnipresent. In the group of 159 potential jurors, just two raised their hands when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor asked if they hadn't heard of the case.

"Real live cases are not scripted episodes of TV shows," Pastor cautioned.

Dr. Conrad Murray, who has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, watched and greeted the crowd of jurors.

The judge held the closely-guarded proceedings in a jury assembly room, and said potential jurors would not be in public areas of the courthouse. They will be brought food, refreshments and have access to restrooms in the assembly room.

While the judge has decided to allow cameras in court for testimony, they will not be allowed during jury selection.

Potential jurors were asked to fill out a brief questionnaire about their availability for the two-month trial, which is scheduled to begin in earnest on May 9. Those who do not have job, vacation or other commitments will then be asked to fill out a 27-page questionnaire that attorneys and Pastor will scrutinize before the next phase of jury selection starts on May 4.

Pastor's first job is to screen the prospects on whether they can afford to spend two months on the trial. Typical juries for long trials include public employees, private employees who are paid for jury duty, and retirees who don't have job pressures.

Those who pass the time qualification will be given a questionnaire with about 125 questions. The inquiry is likely to cover their knowledge of the case, their tastes in music, their relationships with their own doctors, their knowledge of prescription drugs and whether they have predetermined views about the guilt or innocence of Murray.

Members of Jackson's family and a cadre of loyal Jackson fans are expected to attend most of the trial. Jackson's family did not attend Thursday's hearing.

Murray, who also operates a clinic in Las Vegas, has his career on the line. The judge has already suspended his license to practice medicine in California and medical boards in Texas and Nevada could follow suit if he is convicted. It is one reason his lawyers said he wanted a speedy trial.

In a six-day preliminary hearing earlier this year, a portrait emerged of a doctor trying to help his famous client overcome debilitating insomnia with propofol, an anesthetic which is not intended for home use. Jackson had used it before and demanded it, calling it his "milk."

A coroner testified that Jackson, 50, died of a propofol overdose in combination with other drugs on June 25, 2009. His death was classified as a homicide.

Testimony at the trial will include some similar elements to those in the preliminary hearing.

Murray's behavior before and after Jackson stopped breathing was detailed by household staff and paramedics. It was backed up with phone records, e-mails and, most importantly, a transcript of Murray's nearly three-hour interview with police.

Murray said he gave Jackson a low dose of propofol after spending 10 hours trying to get him to sleep using other drugs. When the star appeared to doze off, Murray said he left the room for two minutes to go to the bathroom then returned to find Jackson not breathing.

He delayed calling 911 for between 25 minutes and an hour while he tried to revive him, testimony showed.

The defense team suggested in questioning witnesses that Jackson may have inadvertently killed himself, taking an extra dose of propofol when Murray left his bedroom for a few minutes. They have also recently sought medical records they say will show Jackson was addicted to the sedative demarol. They are expected to claim this was a contributing factor to his demise.

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