SANTA MARIA, Calif. – After two weeks of delays, jury selection resumed Tuesday in the Michael Jackson (search) case with attorneys dismissing half the number of jurors they are allowed to dismiss at will.
Each side is allowed to reject 10 jurors without explanation. The defense cut six Tuesday and the prosecution five. Along with three jurors who were removed by mutual agreement between the two sides, and six jurors the judge dismissed at their requests, 20 prospective panelists were gone by the end of the day.
The dismissal of another prospect last month for health reasons brings the size of the remaining jury pool to 221 people. But if attorneys maintain their current pace, a jury could be seated within days.
Attorneys are trying to select 12 jurors and eight alternates.
Judge Rodney S. Melville (search) ended the first stage of jury selection early three weeks ago, saying there was an unexpectedly high number of potential jurors. But selection was delayed twice — first by the death of lead defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr.'s (search) sister two weeks ago and then Jackson's highly publicized trip to the hospital last week with "flu-like" symptoms.
Melville welcomed jurors back Tuesday by assuring them the delays were real, and were not delaying tactics by the defense.
"Mr. Jackson really was sick. He really did have the flu. I talked to his doctor. ... I wouldn't let anyone take advantage of us that way," Melville said.
The five jurors rejected by prosecutors included a man who said during questioning that he was a "karaoke junkie" and Jackson fan, a woman who once did a cheerleading routine to one of Jackson's songs, and a retired mother of four who was one of only a half-dozen blacks in the jury pool.
Mesereau objected to the dismissal of the mother, and attorneys held a conference with the judge out of earshot. After a delay, the judge allowed prosecutors to dismiss the juror.
The defense is watching the racial makeup of the jury carefully because polls have found that jurors who are black, like Jackson, are more likely than whites to believe he is innocent.
Among the jurors dismissed by the defense were a man who has several sheriff's deputies as friends, and two mothers of young children.
Legal analysts said people with friends in law enforcement may be more sympathetic to prosecutors, and that parents of young children might be especially offended by the charges against Jackson.
The 46-year-old singer is accused of molesting a 13-year-old former cancer patient, plying him with alcohol, and conspiring to hold him and his family captive.
Also Tuesday, the judge said several more names had been added to the case's star-studded witness list, including Eddie Murphy, Macaulay Culkin and Smokey Robinson. More than 300 possible defense witnesses submitted earlier included Kobe Bryant, Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross and Jay Leno.
Jackson took a moment after jury selection convened to discuss the latest in a series of elaborate outfits he has worn to court, which often include cravats, armbands and emblems.
He briefly answered a reporter's questions about a chain of sparkling ornaments draped over a gold vest he wore under his black coat. But he was at a loss when asked to identify a deer-like animal on the coat's emblem.
"My wardrobe guy puts it together," he said.