Conrad Murray (Michael Jackson) Manslaughter Trial: Will the Defense find that “one juror”?Posted: August 12, 2011
Next month, jury selection starts in the Conrad Murray Manslaughter trial for the death of Michael Jackson. Conrad Murray is the doctor who the prosecution believes administered the lethal dose of propofol, a potent surgical anesthetic. The defense appears to believe that Michael administered the lethal dose himself. Apparently, 12 bottles of the stuff was within 2 feet of his bed, they intimated at the preliminary hearing.
That’s one strategy, point the finger at the victim. Maybe, it’s plausible to believe that Michael injected himself, but, will the defense find “one juror” who believes that Dr. Murray wasn’t responsible? That’s all it takes in a criminal case, just find one juror to stand firm and vote “not guilty”. The prosecution, on the other hand, has to convince all 12 jurors of Dr. Murray’s guilt. Not an easy job, but it shouldn’t be when you are dealing with people’s freedom. I’m not taking a position on Dr. Murray’s guilt or innocence as we haven’t even heard any evidence, but, let’s just consider jury selection.
Can you imagine trying to get 12 people to agree to anything, especially, a weighty decision that could send someone to prison or to death? I’ve been on both sides as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney and have tried many cases and I have the utmost respect for jurors and the critical role they play in our justice system.
So, how does the defense find that “one juror”? Or, the prosecution find “those 12 jurors”? Can you find a juror, let alone 12, in LA county who doesn’t know about Michael Jackson or hasn’t heard the details of his death? Ah, the test is, can they still be “fair and impartial”? With all the publicity and the celebrity of Michael Jackson, how can Dr. Murray get a fair trial, as the defense has argued, unsuccessfully, for jury sequestration, especially with Nancy Grace and her Casey Anthony “coverage”?
Maybe, the “one juror” has a strong personality? is talkative ? Or, is quiet? A juror who walks to a different drummer? A juror who was wrongfully accused but can be “fair and impartial”? A juror who identifies with Dr. Murray? A juror who wasn’t a fan of Michael Jackson or celebrities? A juror who is “reluctant” to sit in judgment? A juror who is a recovering addict? A juror who deals with addiction in their family? And, the list goes on, but, this is where we lawyers start thinking about who we want and who we don’t want. We simply don’t pick the first 12 in the box.
Jury selection involves being in the moment. Listen, watch, pay attention, listening to our gut, or intuition, if you will. Whether we get to ask questions of the jurors or not, it is critical that we be completely present when picking a jury. Occupations only tell us so much. Clothes only tell us so much. How does the juror answer my question? What’s the tone? eye contact? How do they respond to me? to the opposing counsel? the judge? What’s their body language say? Does anything about the juror change when the opposing counsel asks them questions? How are the other jurors responding to what the juror is saying? Team player not a team player? How do they react to me when I object, for instance, to opposing counsel’s objectionable question? Or, to opposing counsel’s attempt to “poison” the jurors? During the breaks, is the juror on a bench with their head in a book or talking with other jurors? There is so much that we pay attention to during jury selection, and, it’s certainly not the time to be memorizing our opening statement.
Yes, facts and evidence are important, but, connecting to the audience, the jury, is vital. WHO you pick does matter. Just ask Marcia Clark of OJ Simpson trial. Or, the prosecutors in Casey Anthony trial.
Will the defense find that “one juror”? What Say You?