Byline: Paul Nussbaum
SANTA MARIA, Calif. _ When the 150 most important people in the Michael Jackson case show up in court Monday, they will be outnumbered by the media and overshadowed by the celebrity defendant.
The prospective jurors _ the first of 4,000 local residents who received jury summonses _ will be questioned closely on their familiarity with Jackson, their opinions about race, and their own experiences with sexual molestation.
And they will instantly become part of a celebrity-driven, money-fueled frenzy that will turn this quiet agricultural center into the latest theater of justice-as-global-entertainment. As of last week, 743 reporters, photographers and TV crew members, some from Europe and Japan, had applied for credentials to cover the trial.
Jackson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to charges of molesting a 13-year-old boy at his Neverland ranch in 2003 and then engaging in a conspiracy to conceal the crime.
Jury selection may last for many weeks, legal experts say, and the trial of the King of Pop could take five or six months. Jackson is to be present in court Monday.
Jackson, one of the most recognizable figures in the …