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Jackson trial to start Monday

Selection ahead of schedule; openings could start by next week
/ Source: The Associated Press

Jury selection in Michael Jackson’s child molestation trial wrapped up Thursday after eight alternate jurors were chosen.

Judge Rodney S. Melville scheduled opening statements for Monday.

The alternates will be called on to serve if there is a problem with one of the 12 main jurors, who were selected Wednesday.

The main jury includes several fans of Jackson’s music, four parents of young children, one woman whose grandson was convicted of a sexual offense, and a man who visited Jackson’s Neverland ranch as a child.

The jurors, drawn from the region where Jackson lives and ranging in age from 20 to 79, will decide whether the pop star molested a 13-year-old former cancer patient at the ranch and plied him with alcohol.

The court has not disclosed the races of jurors, and lawyers and jurors are under a gag order not to discuss the case. Race could be a factor because public opinion polls show blacks are less inclined to believe the charges against Jackson.

The jury is mostly white and Hispanic; the alternate panel included one black man.

Four men and four women were chosen as alternates.

Jury selection had been expected to last several weeks, but was completed on the sixth court day. There were two week-long breaks in the process due to the death of an attorney’s sister and Jackson’s hospitalization with flu-like symptoms.