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Lawyers Dig Into Jackson Jury Pool

Michael Jackson is escorted into the Santa Barbara County courthouse in Santa Maria, Calif., by his attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr., Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2005, for the second day of jury selection in his child molestation case.
AP
Attorneys on both sides of pop star Michael Jackson's child-molestation trial now face the delicate task of selecting 20 jurors from a total of 250 people who filled out questionnaires.

After a weeklong delay, jury selection was expected to resume Monday with prosecutors and defense attorneys trying to thin the list to 12 panelists who will render a verdict and eight alternates.

Santa Barbara County Judge Rodney S. Melville released copies of juror questionnaires last week that previewed some of the issues attorneys will focus on. Jurors were asked whether they or someone they knew had experienced improper sexual conduct, if they could judge people of a different race fairly, and if they had followed the 1993 molestation allegations involving Jackson.

Jackson is accused of molesting a 13-year-old former cancer patient and giving the boy alcohol and conspiring to hold him and his family captive.

The questionnaires suggested a jury pool from all walks of life: prospects' job titles ranged from engineer to student to janitor, and their ages spanned from 18 to the early 80s. The average was 46, which is also Jackson's age.

The possible jurors were predominantly white, and about a third Hispanic, with only a half-dozen black prospects. All but 16 of the 242 said they could judge someone of another race fairly.

Sixty-seven people, or more than one in four of the respondents, said they knew someone who has met Jackson or spent time at his ranch. A few potential panelists said they, a relative or close friend had been the victim of "inappropriate sexual behavior of any kind."

Defense attorneys were expected to try to weed out parents of young children who might be especially fearful of child abuse. Prosecutors were likely to look for jurors who looked up to law enforcement.

And, as CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports, prosecutors and defense attorneys will also be on the lookout for any local resident who seems too eager to serve.

"The fact that we've seen a higher percentage of people to serve on this jury is a reflection that this is a celebrity case and those prospective jurors understand they might likely be mini celebrities themselves," reports Gonzales.

The questioning of potential jurors was scheduled to begin last Monday, but was delayed by the death of lead defense attorney Thomas J. Mesereau, Jr.'s sister.

During questioning of would-be jurors, each side has an unlimited number of challenges for cause — challenges that let them remove someone because of obvious bias. In addition, each side has 10 "peremptory" challenges to remove jurors without explaining why.

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