Michael Jackson trial set to begin


Michael Jackson fans across the world will be watching intently this week as the singer's doctor Conrad Murray finally goes on trial over the self-declared King of Pop's shock death two years ago.

On the eve of the twice-delayed trial in Los Angeles, seven men and five women were selected to decide Murray's fate on involuntary manslaughter charges over the star's death on June 25, 2009.

Murray, 58, faces up to four years in jail if convicted, in a trial expected to last five weeks.

The jurors aged 32 to 57 include six whites, five Latinos and one African-American, according to details of jury selection questionnaires released after they were chosen and cited by the TMZ entertainment news website.

Half indicated they had never been a fan of Jackson, who died at age 50, or the Jackson family.

Murray is accused of giving Jackson an overdose of the powerful sedative Propofol to help alleviate the star's insomnia during a stay at a rented estate in the posh Holmby Hills neighbourhood of Los Angeles while rehearsing for a series of London comeback shows.

The doctor has never denied administering the drug - typically used as an anesthetic during surgery - to Jackson, but denies having "abandoned his patient" at the fatal moment.

His lawyer, Ed Chernoff, is expected to argue that the world-famous Thriller singer, addicted to sedatives and desperate for sleep, administered more of the drug himself while Murray was out of the room.

The trial will be televised live, but judge Michael Pastor promised the jury that "at no time will jurors be photographed or filmed or otherwise recorded.

"We take your privacy seriously," said Pastor, who has however rejected a defence request for the jury to be sequestered or otherwise isolated during the whole trial, as took place during the OJ Simpson trial.

Security will be ratchet-tight at the LA Superior Court in downtown Los Angeles, where a major media circus is expected to be joined by often colourful Jackson supporters lamenting the star's demise and demanding justice.

Some fans complain that Caribbean-born Murray, who was being paid US$150,000 (NZ$193,000) a month by Jackson at the time of his death, faces only four years in jail.

He has been free on US$75,000 (NZ$97,000) bail since being charged in February 2010.

"I believe the trial is going to be a big disappointment no matter what the outcome is," said Wesley Noorhoff, head of the Legendary Michael Jackson Fan Association, which has members in more than 180 countries.

The jurors include high school graduates, some with a college education and one with an MBA. Six substitute jurors were chosen in case any of the first 12 selected drop out.

Half are Jackson fans - one of those selected, a 54-year-old woman, wrote that she "loved his music as a very young girl, as an adult not so much", while a man of the same age said he thought Jackson was a "gifted performer".

The trial was originally due in March, but was delayed twice. During that period, the judge has rejected a string of requests, notably to let Jackson's former doctors testify, in what the defence hoped would prove he was a drug addict.

Jackson's family is expected in court - his mother and father, Katherine and Joe Jackson, and several of his siblings who attended six days of pre-trial hearings in January.

But simmering tensions between them were stirred in July, when Katherine Jackson announced a tribute concert for her son, scheduled in Britain on October 8, a couple of weeks into the trial.

Two of her sons, Randy and Jermaine, immediately criticised the plans as "inappropriate" and an "ill-timed event" during the LA trial of their brother's doctor.

- AAP

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