Michael Jackson: Doctor's trial begins with emotion and drama
The trial of Michael Jackson's doctor got underway in dramatic fashion Tuesday with the deceased star's voice echoing through a darkened courtroom, the physician weeping at the defense table and a 'King of Pop' impersonator spinning down the courthouse hall.
As dozens of satellite news trucks lined the streets outside the courtroom, Dr. Conrad Murray entered the courthouse Tuesday morning with his mother, followed shortly after by the Jackson family, including Michael Jackson's parents, Joe and Katherine, and his famous siblings Janet, Latoya, Jermaine and Randy.
After brief comments to the jury by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor, Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren kicked off his opening statement by saying, "Michael Jackson literally put his life in the hands of Conrad Murray."
"That misplaced trust cost Michael Jackson his life," the prosecutor told the panel of seven men and five women.
During his hour-long address, Walgren showed a photo of a deceased Jackson on a gurney. He also played a recording of the heavily drugged and rambling pop star from about six weeks before his death.
"When people leave my show, I want them to say, 'I've never seen nothing like this in my life,' " the singer mumbled on a recording that the prosecution said was made on Murray's iPhone.
"That is what Conrad Murray is seeing and observing on May 10, 2009, and what does he do with that knowledge and information? On May 12, he orders another shipment of propofol and midazolam," Walgren said.
As Jackson's slurred voice echoed through the courtroom, Katherine Jackson grew tearful. Biting her bottom lip, she removed her glasses to blot her eyes. La Toya Jackson reached across her father to hold her mother's hand, while Janet Jackson peered down the row at her mother.
Murray stared intently at the PowerPoint screen but later kept his head down, occasionally jotting down notes.
Murray, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter, violated standards of medical care by leaving Jackson unattended and failing to call 911 when he found Jackson stricken in bed, Walgren said.
"Dr. Murray was working for $150,000 a month. He was an employee, he acted as employee. He did not act as a medical professional using sound medical judgment," Walgren said.
In the defense's opening statement, attorney Ed Chernoff said Jackson died immediately from a combination of tranquilizers and a surgical anesthetic he took without Murray's knowledge.
Chernoff said evidence would prove that Jackson swallowed enough prescription drugs to "put six of you to sleep" and then self-administered propofol, the surgical anesthetic. He said Murray was out of the room at the time.
Murray wiped away tears as his lawyer described him as a hard-working and dedicated doctor who spent his career working in the poorest neighborhood of Houston.
Part of the defense strategy is, in effect, to put Jackson and his alleged addiction on trial.
Chernoff said Jackson told Murray that he had used propofol to sleep for years and he taught the doctor how to use the drug. He said Murray was trying to wean his patient from the drug at the time of his death.
"The evidence is not going to show you that Michael Jackson died when Dr. Murray gave him propofol to sleep. What the evidence is going to show you is that Michael Jackson died when Dr. Murray stopped," he said.
Chernoff suggested that another Jackson doctor, Arnold Klein, bore some blame for the singer's death. He said Klein addicted Jackson to Demerol, sometimes injecting him with 1,000 milligrams in a single week, and withdrawal from the drug caused the singer's crippling insomnia.
Klein will not testify during the trial, but defense attorneys plan to show jurors his medical records.
The trial is in recess until 1:30 p.m.
-- Harriet Ryan and Victoria Kim in Los Angeles County Superior Court
Photo: A prosecution exhibit showing Michael Jackson's body is projected on a screen Tuesday in Dr. Conrad Murray's involuntary-manslaughter trial. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times