Most potential jurors for the Michael Jackson child abuse trial have heard about the case, underlining the difficulty the pop superstar could face in getting a fair hearing.
Answers to jury questionnaires released on Wednesday by the Santa Maria court handling the molestation trial also showed that about one in seven of those remaining in the jury pool have friends or family who know Jackson, or know someone who visited the singer’s Neverland ranch.
One 70-year-old potential juror wrote simply: “His uncle is a personal friend.”
Another said he was a friend of a cousin of Jackson, and one man said he worked with a firefighter employed part-time at Neverland.
Jackson, 46, is accused of 10 counts of molesting a 13-year-old boy at Neverland and conspiring to commit extortion and child abduction. Jury selection is expected to resume next week after a week-long break.
The pool of potential jurors consists of 242 people. Each completed a 41-item, seven-page questionnaire last month on topics ranging from personal experiences as a victim of sex abuse to racial bias that might affect their ability to function as a juror.
Almost nine in 10 potential jurors said they had read or watched a lot or a little news about the case. About 60 percent said they knew something about the 1993 investigation of Jackson on similar molestation accusations that ended in a $23 million out-of-court settlement.
Most of the jury questions required simple fill-in-the blank responses, but some potential jurors offered more information in hand-written comments.
A 47-year-old woman said one of her sons worked at Neverland ranch, while her 15-year-old son had visited to “ride and hang out.”
Several respondents said they or someone they knew well had been diagnosed with cancer. The boy Jackson is accused of molesting was also a cancer patient.
The judge in the case has sealed many of the key documents. But there have been several leaks in the case including the release of secret grand jury testimony by Jackson’s accuser to a U.S. television network.
Several potential jurors said they held strong beliefs that might affect their judgment.
One mother of three wrote that she found it “very disturbing” hearing “what Jackson has already admitted to doing with children” -- apparently a reference to a television documentary in which he defended sharing his bed with kids.
A 69-year-old woman wrote that she had a “fear of someone taking advantage of my handicapped daughter and/or (an) innocent child.”
Another woman, a 29-year-old office assistant who works for Santa Barbara County, wrote simply “I don’t think kids would lie.”