Jury pool profiles disclosed
Questionnaires paint picture of 243 candidates
By DAWN HOBBS
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
Potential jurors in the Michael Jackson case filled out questionnaires that were made public Wednesday.
Prospective jurors for the Michael Jackson molestation trial include many who have visited the entertainer's Neverland Valley Ranch and others who said they had been victims of inappropriate sexual contact, according to court questionnaires released Wednesday.
The jury pool of 243 North County residents ranged from retail and service workers to professionals with graduate degrees, many of whom have lived here more than a decade.
Attorneys have been reviewing their answers in preparation for in-person questioning scheduled to begin at the Santa Maria courthouse Monday. Those selected -- 12 jurors and eight alternates -- will sit through what is expected to be a five-month trial.
The prospective jurors answered 41 questions last week as part of the process designed to reveal whether their personal histories might lead them to favor the entertainer or his prosecutors.
Most indicated that they have read or watched at least a little coverage of the high-profile case involving an accuser who is now 15.
Some scribbled explanations in the margins about their knowledge of the case or why they visited Mr. Jackson's sprawling Los Olivos ranch.
"I went to Neverland w/special ed for my sch. dist," wrote a 47-year-old Solvang teacher.
The single woman explained that she briefly spoke with a co-worker about her jury summons but that she had stopped discussing the case after learning that she might be part of the Jackson jury pool.
Instead of simply checking "Yes" or "No" about whether she had read anything related to the 1993 child molestation investigation of Mr. Jackson, the woman wrote: "Some, not very much at all. I don't pay that much attention to media. I saw a little bit. I had a TV back then."
One 18-year-old student commented that he was "too young" to know anything about the prior case.
A real estate agent who volunteers as a docent for the Sedgwick Reserve said she was Mr. Jackson's neighbor. She indicated that she had seen a lot of media coverage and discussed the case with family and friends.
At first glance, there appear to be more women than men, with the majority above 40 years old. Most are married homeowners with children.
Some gave reasons why they couldn't serve. A 58-year-old married mother of two said she has "adult A.D.D," referring to the disorder that makes it difficult for people to concentrate on a task.
And a 60-year-old homemaker wrote that her religion precluded her from passing judgment on another person: "Only the Lord can judge the innocence or guilt of another person."
A 38-year-old Lompoc woman who works as a physical education teacher said it would be "nearly impossible" for her to be impartial. "Having three children of my own, I am very sensitive to any type of child abuse," she wrote. "The actions that Mr. Jackson has admitted to with children are very disturbing to me."
Another Lompoc woman, who works as an office assistant for the county, said she could not serve because "I don't think kids would lie."
Mr. Jackson has pleaded not guilty to child molestation and conspiracy charges. He faces up to 18 years in prison if convicted.
The pool from which 12 jurors and eight alternates will be picked includes retirees, agricultural workers, custodians and teachers. People listed Target, Mervyns and the Department of Social Services as places of employment. There are therapists, engineers, maintenance workers, real estate agents and a couple of business owners.
Many have friends in law enforcement, and most said they or a family member had served in the military. One divorced woman said she worked at Vandenberg Air Force Base as an advocate for battered women and victims of child abuse.
A 48-year-old man who is a senior pastor for a police department indicated that his father served in the Italian army. He also listed several ties to the Jackson family, including a birthday party he attended for Mr. Jackson's cousin, Eli Jackson.
The pastor stated that the cousin was also a member of his church, an employee and his son's best friend. He also said he was a "really close friend" of a former ranch employee.
A 53-year-old Santa Maria man said he and his family met Mr. Jackson and his family at a Jehovah's Witnesses facility and said he would have a hard time serving on the jury because "I believe that there is a possibility he might be guilty. There are doubts."
Some potential jurors reported that they had been arrested or said they had been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior.
A few wrote that they had been the victim or a witness in a serious crime, including sex offenses.
At least two said they could not fairly judge someone from another race. And a handful more indicated they "don't know" if they could be fair.
Most conceded that they knew at least a little about the case against Mr. Jackson, but a few said they knew nothing about the widely reported investigation.
One 22-year-old nanny said she had been to Mr. Jackson's Neverland Ranch but had never heard any reports of any criminal allegations against him.
Dawn Hobbs also works as a news analyst for NBC and MSNBC. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.