The U.S. judge overseeing the manslaughter trial of pop icon Michael Jackson’s doctor said Friday he needs more juror candidates, after a first round of jury selection failed to produce enough.
Judge Michael Pastor said that some 200 candidates had been rejected in two days of selection at the Los Angeles Superior Court, having proved that sitting on the likely two-month trial starting in May would be a financial hardship.
Murray claims he was just giving an insomnia treatment when the singer died on June 25, 2009 from an overdose of powerful anaesthetic propofol. He pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter at preliminary hearings in January.
Pastor, after meeting with lawyers for both sides following two days of jury selection, said Friday they “simply do not have a sufficient number,” and asked for more candidates to turn up on April 7 to face preliminary screening.
So far 147 candidates have been given an extensive questionnaire, which asks what they already know about the case with a view to ensuring impartiality in the final 12-strong jury and six alternates chosen.
The closely-watched trial had been due to start this week, but was delayed and will now get underway with opening statements on May 9. It is expected to end by early July.
Murray could face up to four years in jail and permanently lose his doctor’s license if convicted.
Jackson’s death shocked the entertainment world and triggered intense debate over the performer’s health in the run-up to London concerts, known as the This is It tour.
Prosecutors allege that Murray, 57, “abandoned his patient” after administering the propofol to help Jackson sleep, and then tried to cover it up after the singer’s death.
Murray acknowledged that he had used propofol, but insisted that on the day of the 50-year-old singer’s death he administered only a small amount of the drug that should not have been fatal.
His defense team has suggested that Jackson could have effectively killed himself by administering an extra dose of propofol while Murray was out of the room.