A judge, declaring his faith in the honesty of jurors, refused Thursday to order sequestration for those who will serve in the high profile involuntary manslaughter trial of the doctor charged in Michael Jackson's death.
"Jurors want to do the right thing," Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor told lawyers. He said those who serve in the case of Dr. Conrad Murray will be making tremendous sacrifices and locking them up would be cruel.
He said studies have shown that sequestered jurors often describe themselves as feeling like inmates.
"Jurors have lives," Pastor said. "We remove them from their lives in these horrific economic times."
Pastor said he was confident that jurors would follow his instructions to avoid exposure to publicity, but he rebuffed a defense argument that he rescind a decision to televise the trial. Defense attorney Ed Chernoff said the television coverage would feed an army of commentators who would supply their own interpretation of what went on in court.
Chernoff, referring to widespread media coverage of the Casey Anthony trial, called the commentary "a problem."
"Is the problem you're referring to the exercise of the First Amendment?" asked the judge. He added, "I decline, at this point, to amend my ruling. The First Amendment is one of our most cherished principles and the right to comment is part of that."
"I have more faith and respect for jurors than others do," Pastor said.
Pastor, who had said earlier that the county could not afford to sequester jurors, said the money was not the deciding factor.
"The issue of cost is not the overriding consideration," he said. "Justice trumps everything."
If sequestration was warranted, he said, he would have ordered it even though the cost would exceed half-a-million dollars.
"If this was a close call, I would order sequestration regardless of cost," he said. "It is not a close call."
Murray's attorneys had argued that sequestration was the only way to ensure a fair trial.
If the case involving the death of the King of Pop didn't justify sequestration then there likely isn't another case in which it's warranted, said Chernoff.
Defense motions specifically cited TV personality Nancy Grace, who they said used her TV show to campaign for conviction of Casey Anthony, the Florida mother who had been charged with killing her 2-year-old daughter and was acquitted by a sequestered jury.
Pastor cited a number of studies he had researched on sequestration and said sequestered jurors have reported being so frustrated that the isolation "interfered with their fair assessment of the evidence and the law."
Jury selection is scheduled to begin in the Jackson case on Sept. 8, with opening statements slated for Sept. 27.
Murray could face four years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Authorities have accused him of administering a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol and other sedatives in the bedroom of Jackson's rented mansion on June 25, 2009.
Pastor has noted that a jury hasn't been sequestered in Los Angeles since the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
In another development, prosecutors filed a motion seeking to exclude or limit the testimony of 26 witnesses including Jackson's many health care providers and a police detective who participated in Jackson's 2003 child molestation investigation in Santa Maria. Jackson was acquitted in a high profile 2005 trial and prosecutors said in their motion that such testimony "is irrelevant and highly inflammatory."
"The current case should focus on the events surrounding the medical care provided to Michael Jackson by Conrad Murray," said the motion. "The case should not be allowed to deteriorate into an unfair, unwarranted and irrelevant attack on the deceased victim."
They asked the court to bar any reference to the molestation case.