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Severe flu lands Jackson in hospital

Jury selection in the Michael Jackson case was suspended until Feb. 22 after the singer was admitted to a hospital with a severe case of the flu.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Michael Jackson was taken to a hospital with the flu Tuesday morning, delaying jury selection for a week in the singer’s child molestation trial.

Judge Rodney Melville told prospective jurors that Jackson had the flu and that jury selection would resume Feb. 22. Lawyers were expected back in court later Tuesday to discuss unspecified motions.

The judge said Jackson had been on his way to court but was taken to a hospital emergency room instead. He later told the prospective jurors that Jackson was to be admitted to the hospital.

The judge made the initial announcement 15 minutes after Jackson was scheduled to appear in court at 8:30 a.m.

A call to the Marian Medical Center in Santa Maria, where Jackson was taken, was not immediately returned. Jackson spokeswoman Raymone K. Bain said she was trying to learn more about Jackson’s condition and would comment later.

Outside the medical center, about two miles from court, a growing crowd of about 50 fans and reporters gathered. Police guarded all entrances, stopping anyone who appeared to be with the media, while hospital officials put up white fabric to hide what was going on in the emergency room.

Jackson had not been visibly ill in court Monday, when questioning of prospective jurors got under way and Jackson’s lawyers announced they may call stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Jay Leno, Quincy Jones and Kobe Bryant to the witness stand.

The list of possible witnesses sounded like coming attractions for a major Hollywood spectacle. But Melville said not all of the celebrities would necessarily testify.

Attorneys are selecting 12 jurors and eight alternates who will decide whether Jackson molested a teenage cancer patient at his Neverland Ranch and plied the youth with alcohol.

Names of defense and prosecution witnesses were revealed to prospective jurors Monday so attorneys could find out if any of the more than 240 members of the pool had associations that may be important in jury selection.

Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. also named two of Jackson’s children, Paris and Prince Michael. Possible prosecution witnesses included Debbie Rowe, their mother.

Other possible witnesses included Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Chris Tucker, former child actor Corey Feldman, Backstreet Boy Nick Carter and younger brother Aaron, CBS correspondent Ed Bradley, CNN’s Larry King, Fox broadcaster Rita Cosby, New Age guru Deepak Chopra, illusionist Uri Geller, illusionist David Blaine, Las Vegas tycoon Steve Wynn and relatives of the late Marlon Brando.

Prosecutors also listed the family of a boy involved in 1993 molestation allegations against Jackson. The judge has not yet ruled whether that incident can be mentioned in the trial. The accuser received a multimillion-dollar settlement and no criminal charges were filed.

Both sides listed former Jackson attorney Mark Geragos, and the defense list included Jackson’s chief prosecutor, District Attorney Tom Sneddon.