The defense witness list in Michael Jackson's trial includes Jackson's own children and a variety of celebrities, among them Kobe Bryant and Elizabeth Taylor, his lawyer told jury prospects today (Feb

The defense witness list in Michael Jackson's trial includes Jackson's own children and a variety of celebrities, among them Kobe Bryant and Elizabeth Taylor, his lawyer told jury prospects today (Feb. 14) in Santa Maria, Calif. The glimpse into defense plans came as questioning began of potential jurors in Michael Jackson's child-molestation trial.

As the process got under way, prosecutors and defense attorneys immediately agreed to dismiss an 81-year-old man who said he has a serious health condition.

Jackson's attorney, Thomas J. Mesereau Jr., told the prospects that the defense witness list includes NBA star Bryant, Taylor, illusionist David Blaine, TV newsman Ed Bradley, the Backstreet Boys' Nick Carter and relatives of actor Marlon Brando.

Earlier, Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville told the approximately 240 potential jurors to relax and to keep an open mind, saying a trial participant's greatest fear is that a judge or juror in a case has been "bought and paid for."

"I'm not bought and paid for. I have not made up my mind in this case and I want to select a jury that feels exactly the same way," Melville said. "You might be able to relax a little bit if you think of this as a job interview," he added, eliciting laughter.

Jackson is accused of molesting a 13-year-old former cancer patient, giving the boy alcohol and conspiring to hold him and his family captive.

Last week, Melville released juror questionnaires that previewed some of the issues attorneys will focus on. Jurors were asked whether they or someone they knew had experienced improper sexual conduct, if they could judge people of a different race fairly, and if they had followed the 1993 molestation allegations involving Jackson.

Jury selection had been delayed a week because of the death of Mesereau's sister.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are trying to thin the nearly 250 potential jurors who filled out questionnaires into 12 panelists and eight alternates.

The prospective jurors' job titles range from engineer to student to janitor, and their ages spanned from 18 to the early 80s. The average was 46, which is also Jackson's age. The possible jurors were predominantly white, and about a third Hispanic, with only a half-dozen black prospects.

Defense attorneys were expected to try to weed out parents of young children who might be especially afraid of child abuse. Prosecutors were likely to look for jurors who looked up to law enforcement.

During questioning of would-be jurors, each side has an unlimited number of challenges for cause, which are challenges that let them remove someone because of obvious bias. In addition, each side has 10 "peremptory" challenges to remove jurors without explaining why.


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