Michael Jackson autopsy photos can be shown to jury in Conrad Murray case, judge rules
This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.
The trial of Michael Jackson’s personal physician will include two haunting but starkly different depictions of the pop star’s last day -- a video of him dancing and singing on stage and photos taken hours later of his lifeless body on a coroner’s gurney, a judge ruled Thursday.
Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor cleared prosecutors to present the rehearsal footage and autopsy photos during a lengthy hearing that established evidentiary boundaries for next month’s involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray.
The judge barred both sides from delving far into the personal lives of both the physician and his famous patient, saying he wanted to focus the trial tightly on Murray’s medical care of Jackson in the months and days leading up to his 2009 death.
Jurors, Pastor said, will hear nothing about Murray’s extramarital affairs, out-of-wedlock children and penchant for strip clubs, all evidence prosecutors had hoped to present. Nor, he said, will they hear evidence that the defense had sought to introduce concerning Jackson’s crushing debt and mountain of pending lawsuits.
The ruling on Jackson’s money woes was a particularly difficult blow for Murray, whose lawyers had said their case hinged on linking the singer’s desperate financial straits to their contention that he administered himself a fatal dose of propofol. In comments in court, defense lawyer Ed Chernoff indicated that the defense planned to argue that Jackson took the drug for insomnia so he could be ready for rehearsals in a comeback concert series that would end his money problems.
But Pastor called Jackson’s debt irrelevant and said testimony from a financial analyst retained by the defense would make for “a battle of accountants” and “turn what should be a focused trial involving a charge of involuntary manslaughter into a salacious analysis of personal financial issues.”
“We simply are not going there,” he said.
The defense also lost a fight to prohibit the use of the autopsy photos and video clips of rehearsal that were taken from the posthumous Jackson documentary “This Is It.”
Defense lawyer Nareg Gourjian said the clips were “sliced and diced” by moviemakers to give a false impression of Jackson’s abilities and health, but Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren said videos were “most probative as to Michael Jackson’s mental and physical wellbeing and optimism for the future.”
Murray, 58, faces a maximum of four years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty.
[For the record 2:49 p.m., April 21: This post was changed to correct the spelling of Gourjian's name.]
-- Harriet Ryan
Photo: Dr. Conrad Murray is charged with involuntary manslaughter in Michael Jackson's 2009 death. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times