More than two years after superstar Michael Jackson's death
, a manslaughter trial for the singer's physician, Conrad Murray, officially began Thursday as attorneys screened the first of about 160 prospective jurors.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael E. Pastor introduced the jurors to Murray and asked whether they could serve on a trial lasting 25 court days – ending around Oct. 28. Opening statements are anticipated in late September.
When he asked the potential jurors, gathered in a jury assembly room, if there was anyone who had not heard anything about the case, no one raised a hand. Pastor expressed no surprise.
"We didn't expect you'd been living under a rock," he said, "or made a pit stop from Mars."
Murray, 58, is accused of over-sedating Jackson with the powerful anesthetic propofol
and failing to notice that Jackson had stopped breathing for crucial minutes before finally calling 911.
Defense attorneys say Jackson drank propofol like milk, and suggest that someone other than Murray, perhaps Jackson himself, administered the fatal dose of the drug when Murray's back was turned.
Murray could get up to four years in prison if convicted of the felony charge
of involuntary manslaughter.
Jurors who indicated they were available to serve received a questionnaire of about 30 pages asking them what they know about Murray and about Jackson's death at the age of 50 on June 25, 2009, and for their opinions about doctors, drugs and law enforcement.