SANTA MARIA, Calif. – Potential jurors in the Michael Jackson (search) trial are being asked if they've ever had cancer, about their opinion on people of different races and even about whether they followed the 1993 molestation allegations against the pop star.
Those questions were among dozens in a pared-down questionnaire released Wednesday. It is designed to weed out jurors who might have strong feelings that would keep them from ruling fairly in the case.
Jurors filled out the full questionnaire during pretrial screening Monday and Tuesday. Jackson is accused of molesting a 13-year-old former cancer patient.
A note to jurors said the questionnaire was designed to save them the embarrassment of talking about some of the issues in open court. Attorneys on Monday are scheduled to begin questioning some of the roughly 250 people who expressed willingness to serve.
Some of the other questions included whether they have ever experienced or been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior, if they have ever advocated for abused children, and how closely they have followed the case.
Besides asking jurors about any religious beliefs or medical problems that could keep them from serving, the questionnaire grazed several specific issues likely to come into play during the trial, including whether jurors or their families had ever made "any type of claim for money damages."
Defense attorneys are expected to portray the accuser's family as after Jackson's money, citing the family's past settlement from J.C. Penney after claiming security guards beat them.
Jurors were asked about their knowledge of the 1993 allegations because prosecutors want to raise it in an attempt to prove a pattern of abuse. Jackson reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with his accuser in the case and was never criminally charged.
While the questionnaire touched on several issues, it did not go into the kind of detail that would help attorneys eliminate jurors they saw as sympathetic to the other side, said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor.
"This is the most bare-bones questionnaire I've ever seen," said Levenson. "It's very superficial. The judge obviously did not want a sociology study, but this will make it more difficult for the defense to find the kind of jurors they want."