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Progress In Jackson Jury Selection

Attorneys in the Michael Jackson case made headway in selecting a jury, dismissing a self-styled "karaoke junkie" and two women with ties to law enforcement.

"This is considerably faster than I think anyone anticipated," said CBS News Legal Analyst Trent Copeland. "Remember, the jury selection phase is probably the most important process the court has to undertake."

Both sides are allowed to reject 10 jurors each without explanation. The defense cut six Tuesday and the prosecution five.

The judge has put a limit on the amount of time lawyers can question individual jurors, reports CBS News Correspondent Steve Futterman, and unless there is a sudden change, a jury should be in place in the next two days and opening statements could begin next week.

Along with three jurors who were removed by mutual agreement 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. If attorneys maintain their current pace, a jury could be seated within days.

The five jurors rejected by prosecutors included a man who said during questioning that he was a "karaoke junkie" and Jackson fan and a woman who once did a cheerleading routine to one of Jackson's songs.

Among the jurors dismissed by the defense were a man who has several sheriff's deputies as friends, and two mothers of young children. One has a friend in law enforcement and another's mother works for the Santa Barbara County district attorney's office.

"It would have been kind of cool and interesting to be on the jury, but I have a life outside of this," said Jerry Gallant, who was dismissed by the defense.

Each side is now using its peremptory challenges — challenges for which no reason needs to be given. The defense did object to one of the prosecution's peremptory challenges to an African American woman, one of the few black prospective jurors. Futterman reports the defense apparently accused the prosecution of removing her from jury because she is black.

Jury selection was delayed twice — first by the death of lead defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr.'s sister two weeks ago and then Jackson's highly publicized trip to the hospital last week with "flu-like" symptoms.

Judge Rodney S. 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," Melville said. "I wouldn't let anyone take advantage of us that way."

In court Tuesday, Jackson at first appeared still ill, staring into space. As the day wore on he watched the proceedings intently, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales.

Attorneys are trying to select 12 jurors and eight alternates.

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.

More famous names were added to the witness list Tuesday, including singer Smokey Robinson, former child star Macaulay Culkin and Eddie Murphy.

"Our sources are telling us that the mother of the alleged victim contacted Eddie Murphy on several occasions," said Jackson biographer and CBS News legal consultant J. Randy Taraborrelli. "It does show that the mother had a laundry list of celebrities that she was trying to introduce her son to."

  • David Hancock

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