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The Michael Jackson Trial

Jackson judge says he has enough prospective jurors to hear case


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Enough potential jurors have been picked in the Michael Jackson case.

Michael Jackson's legal problems have taken a toll on his fortune.
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SANTA MARIA, California (CNN) -- The judge in the Michael Jackson child molestation case said Tuesday he was ready to proceed to the next step in the jury selection process, saying enough potential jurors have been selected.

The announcement by Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville came after a group of 250 potential jurors have been picked from about 450 people screened during 1 1/2 days of jury selection.

The potential jurors were questioned in two groups of 150 Monday, the first day of the trial, and Tuesday's morning session delivered another group of 150. A total of nearly 750 prospective panelists had been ordered to report to the courthouse.

But Melville canceled Tuesday's afternoon session and said court would be dark the rest of the week to give attorneys for both sides time to read the seven-page questionnaires members of the jury pool were asked to complete.

Monday will begin the "voir dire" process, in which prospective jurors are questioned by attorneys from both sides.

Observers in the courtroom said some potential panelists who pleaded to be let out of the jury pool due to hardships were not granted their wish and were told to report back next week.

Jackson, 46, was indicted by a federal grand jury on four counts of child molestation, four counts of administering an intoxicating agent, one count of attempted child molestation and one count of conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion.

Jackson has pleaded not guilty in the case.

On Sunday, the singer released a court-approved message over his Web site, saying he would be "acquitted and vindicated" of all charges against him.

Jackson appeared attentive and took notes on a yellow legal pad Tuesday, chuckling along with others in the courtroom when one potential juror, who said he was self-employed, responded when asked if he had any other source of income: "Just my wife." Meanwhile, his defense team's jury consultant seemed to be watching members of the jury pool carefully.

Twelve jurors, along with eight alternates, will eventually be seated in the case.

As he entered the courthouse Tuesday, Jackson smiled and waved to a group of screaming fans and supporters, some of whom had been on hand for hours waiting for him.

Some members of the crowd were holding signs declaring their support for Jackson's alleged victim, police and prosecutors; others chanted, sang and clapped as they waved signs declaring their belief in Jackson's innocence. About 100 people turned out, roughly the same as Monday.

One Jackson impersonator held a sign saying, "Smooth, but not a criminal."

Wearing a red shirt, a white, shiny vest, dark pants and blazer, with bodyguards holding an umbrella over him to shield him from the sun, Jackson was greeted outside the courthouse by his defense attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr. -- whose arrival at the courthouse earlier had also garnered cheers from Jackson supporters.

Jackson's defense attorneys are looking for jurors "who understand that children can lie, and if not, at least they can form perceptions that are false and spurious," jury expert Robert Gordon told CNN on Tuesday. "On the other hand, the prosecution is looking for people who believe that children do not lie about sexual impropriety, and people who believe in law and order and hate the abuse of children."

Choosing parents as jurors can work to the advantage of either the prosecution or the defense, Gordon said.

"Parents know two things: One, they know that the needs of children are great, but at the same time, they know that children can form false perceptions." But, he said, "the prosecution has the advantage in terms of the anxiety that parents have about abuse, particularly when a child is away from home."

Jackson's fame, however, may play a role -- before the public, if not for the jury -- Gordon said, because of possible beliefs that Jackson might be able to manipulate the media. Evidence of that, he said, would be the fact that Jackson has "been able to begin his testimony" by releasing the court-approved statement on his Web site.

Observers counted about 138 potential jurors Tuesday, and 76 of them tried to get excused from serving. On Monday, more than half of the potential jurors said they felt they could serve on the panel for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last six months.

During one exchange with a potential juror Monday, the judge indicated he has no plans to keep the jury sequestered for the trial.

CNN's Miguel Marquez, Ted Rowlands and Dree DeClamecy contributed to this report.


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