Given Michael Jackson's status as one of the most famous pop stars on the planet, it's not surprising that most of the potential jurors for his child-molestation trial have read or heard about the case.
The revelation comes from jury questionnaires released Wednesday by the court. Among the 243 potential jurors who will be questioned by lawyers beginning Monday, one in seven have friends or family who either know Jackson or know someone who has visited his Neverland Valley Ranch, where the alleged molestation is said to have occurred, according to a Reuters report.
Nine in 10 said they had read about or watched some or a lot of the coverage of the case, while 60 percent were aware of the previous molestation investigation of Jackson in 1993, which resulted in a multimillion dollar out-of-court settlement.
The following were among the handwritten responses to the 41-item, eight-page questionnaire filled out last week, according to Reuters and the Los Angeles Times:
- A 70-year-old potential juror wrote: "His uncle is a personal friend."
- A man said he was a friend of a cousin of Jackson.
- Another man said he worked with a firefighter employed part-time at Neverland.
- A 47-year-old woman wrote, "My niece-in-law's sister has dated Ely, Michael's cousin, and we have attended family functions with Ely."
- A schoolteacher wrote, "I went to Neverland w/ special ed for my sch. dist."
- "My disabled daughter was allowed to go to Neverland, but Mr. Jackson was not present during her school visit," wrote a potential juror.
- Another woman said one of her sons worked at Neverland ranch and her 15-year-old son had visited to "ride and hang out."
According to the Times, among the potential jurors are former soldiers, city workers, janitors, computer analysts and homemakers, the majority of whom are white, with another third identified as Latino and six as black. The numbers are roughly in keeping with the racial makeup of northern Santa Barbara County, where the trial is taking place.
The group was whittled down from a potential pool of 750 last week in an effort to find 12 jurors and eight alternates to sit on the jury for the trial, which is expected to last six months. Jury questioning is slated to pick up on Monday and last several weeks, after taking this week off due to the death of lead Jackson attorney Thomas Mesereau's sister (see "Michael Jackson Trial Delayed A Week").
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see "Michael Jackson Accused."