SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Three people who said they believe entertainer Michael Jackson was guilty of child molestation were among 12 jurors chosen Wednesday to hear a lawsuit filed by a former associate over a financial dispute.
Jackson was acquitted of molestation charges in last June, but the question came up during jury selection.
Four people raised their hands when Jackson's lawyer, Thomas C. Mundell, asked if they thought the singer was guilty of molestation even though he was acquitted.
"I have lots of opinions about this man," said one woman. "How can you not? I read so much and I have tons of opinions."
She was asked if her opinions would affect her ability to reach a decision in the current civil case.
"It colors it," she said.
She was accepted on the panel, but a man who raised his hand was dismissed after he said he thought Jackson possibly had a "character flaw" that may relate to the case.
F. Marc Schaffel is seeking $3.8 million for what he claims were unpaid loans and expenses, unpaid salary for a charity record and a share of proceeds from two TV programs produced to repair Jackson's image, damaged by a documentary in which he said he shared his bed in a nonsexual way with children.
Alternate jurors were expected to be selected Thursday, followed by opening statements and witness testimony.
During "mini opening statements," which were allowed by Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Connor to give prospective jurors an overview of the case, Schaffel's lawyer told the panel: "I represent the unfamous party in this case. I think everyone knows who Michael Jackson is."
The lawyer, Howard King, offered a brief history of Schaffel's association with Jackson. King said Schaffel was paid until Jackson allegedly ran out of money.
"Mr. Schaffel was left holding the bag," King said.
Mundell said Schaffel was a producer of gay pornography, a fact unknown to Jackson when Schaffel was hired. Schaffel had no expertise in the record industry, Mundell said, and he was supposed to produce a charity record for Jackson.
Jackson severed ties with Schaffel after learning of Schaffel's past, Mundell said.
There are disputes over whether Schaffel profited from sales of the record in Japan and whether he was ever paid for his services. Mundell maintained that evidence will show that Schaffel actually owes Jackson money.
Prospective jurors were told that the pop star will not be present during the trial but they would see him on videotape giving deposition testimony.
At one point, a retired nurse on the panel said she met Jackson when she worked at the hospital where he was treated when his hair caught fire during a commercial shoot in 1984.
As for her impressions of him, she said: "He was wonderful with the kids."
The audience of prospective jurors burst into laughter and the woman was dismissed from the panel.