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Jury Selected For Jackson Trial

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Jury selection is complete and opening statements are set for Monday in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial.

Eight alternates were chosen today. Among them is one black man. Defense attorneys objected this week when prosecutors rejected two black women.

Alternates will be called to serve if there's a problem with any of the 12 regular jurors who were sworn in yesterday. Those four men and eight women range in age from 20 to 79. Most of them are white and Hispanic.

Race could be a factor because polls show blacks are less inclined to believe the charges against Jackson.

The pop star is accused of molesting a 13-year-old cancer patient, plying him with alcohol and conspiring to hold him and his family captive.

Judge Rodney S. Melville scheduled opening statements for Monday.

CBS News Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen expects Melville is starting the trial off on the right foot.

"It's always good to start a jury trial on a Monday morning, when jurors are fresh and rested, and when the case can quickly get to witnesses before the theories included in the opening statements settle in too much," Cohen said.

The jury selected Wednesday includes several fans of his music, four parents of young children, a woman whose grandson was convicted of a sexual offense, and a man who visited Jackson's Neverland ranch as a child.

Jury selection had been expected to last several weeks, but took only five court days, which were interrupted by a one-week break because of the death of an attorney's sister and another one-week break because Jackson was hospitalized with flu-like symptoms.

"If the judge is as quick with the trial as he was with jury selection there is no way this trial will last six months," Cohen said. "Even though it's a conspiracy case, it's not a complex case..."

Two black women who had been questioned as potential jurors were rejected by prosecutors, who were allowed to dismiss them without stating a reason. The defense objected on both occasions — one Tuesday, the other Wednesday.

The second woman said her husband had suffered discrimination while working for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department and criticized the makeup of the jury pool.

"Just look around us. A jury of his peers would be people of his age and people of color, mixed diversity," she said. "How diverse is this jury looking to you right now?"

Jackson nodded along as the woman described her husband's experiences and turned to watch as she left the courtroom.

CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports Jackson was visibly upset when the woman among the alternates was forced out by the prosecution.

"Michael seemed disappointed and he whispered some word in exasperation that was inaudible," reports Gonzales.

But, sources tell CBS News that Jackson is satisfied with the final jury makeup.

He's been involved in many, many civil suits over the years, but he's never sat in on the jury selection. Gonzales reports Jackson is fascinated by the process and is very satisfied with the way it worked out.

One black man remained in the pool from which the alternate panel was being selected. Attorneys will resume choosing eight alternates on Thursday.

Santa Barbara County's population of 386,000 is 2.3 percent black, according to 2003 census figures.

One of the jurors selected is a 79-year-old widow with two children and a grandson on probation for a sex crime. She said he was forced to register as a "sexual deviant."

A 21-year-old selected once went to Jackson's Neverland ranch with a cerebral palsy group. The man said Jackson was not home at the time.

Another juror was asked if he recognized the names of celebrity witnesses who may testify in the case, including self-help guru Deepak Chopra. "I think he's a rapper," the juror said.

  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.