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Lawyers for Michael Jackson's doctor want jury sequestered

Dr. Conrad Murray's attorneys say the bombastic commentary from cable personalties in the Casey Anthony trial in Florida shows the need for the jury in the L.A. manslaughter case to be isolated.

August 20, 2011|By Harriet Ryan, Los Angeles Times
  • Dr. Conrad Murray is accused of causing Michael Jackson's 2009 death from an overdose of surgical anesthetic.
Dr. Conrad Murray is accused of causing Michael Jackson's 2009 death… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

Arguing that the Casey Anthony trial in Florida exposed a dangerous new order in TV coverage of high-profile cases, lawyers for Michael Jackson's doctor have demanded a sequestered jury for his upcoming trial.

In court papers filed Thursday, the attorneys for Dr. Conrad Murray wrote that bombastic, opinionated commentary from cable personalities like Nancy Grace "demonstrated the danger that is created to a fair trial when basic information is managed for the purpose of entertainment and television ratings."

The judge for Murray's manslaughter trial, which is set for next month, has said previously that he does not believe around-the-clock isolation of jurors is necessary.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor has also said the cash-strapped court system cannot afford the expense of hotel accommodations for the jury.

But in their filing, defense lawyers urged him to reconsider, writing that in the Anthony case, in which sequestered jurors delivered a verdict at odds with much of the television analysis, underscored the need for the panelists to be kept away from media coverage. Anthony was found not guilty of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.

"Would [the Anthony jurors] have been so sure of the facts if the 'experts' had informed them on a nightly basis that they were wrong?" defense lawyers Nareg Gourjian and Edward Chernoff wrote.

Murray is accused of causing Jackson's 2009 death from an overdose of surgical anesthetic. He maintains that Jackson administered the fatal dose himself.

If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Murray faces a maximum of four years in prison.

In their filing, Murray's lawyers predicted that viewership of the trial on the Internet and television would exceed that for Anthony's trial, given Jackson's global fame.

"There is reasonable expectation that Dr. Murray's trial will be the most publicized trial in history," they wrote.

The attorneys noted that in an aborted attempt at jury selection this spring, a process scuttled by unrelated delays, only one potential panelist said she had never heard of the case.

"And she could not speak English," they added in a footnote.

Representatives for Grace did not return a message seeking comment, and her network, HLN, declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney's office declined to comment. A hearing is set for Aug. 25.

harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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