The trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor, accused of negligence leading to the pop star’s death, was to resume Wednesday after dramatic opening statements and chilling evidence from beyond the grave.
Conrad Murray’s manslaughter trial opened on Tuesday with a haunting photo of Jackson’s body draped in white on a hospital gurney and an audio recording of the star, slurring and apparently heavily drugged, two months before his death.
But the court also saw a video of Jackson rehearsing “The Way You Make Me Feel” days before his death, and heard that he had plans for a world tour and a feature film version of his famous “Thriller” video.
Murray’s lawyer argued that Jackson died “instantly” of a massive overdose after taking two different drugs while the doctor was out of the room at the star’s Holmby Hills mansion on June 25, 2009.
“He did an act without his doctor’s knowledge, without his doctor’s permission, against his orders. He did an act that caused his own death,” Murray’s lawyer Ed Chernoff argued.
Chernoff said Jackson took eight two-milligram lorazepam pills — enough to put six people to sleep — without his doctor’s knowledge, and then gave himself an extra dose of the powerful sedative propofol.
The combination of drugs “killed him instantly… He died so rapidly, so instantly, he didn’t even have time to close his eyes,” he said.
Murray, 58, faces up to four years in jail if convicted by a jury of seven men and five women of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Jackson, who was preparing for a series of comeback concerts.
The physician is alleged to have given Jackson an overdose of propofol — which Jackson himself referred to as “milk” — to help alleviate his insomnia.
Murray, trained as a cardiologist, has never denied giving Jackson propofol, which typically is used as an anesthetic during surgery, but he denies having “abandoned his patient” at a critical, and ultimately fatal, moment.
The doctor wiped tears from his eyes at one point during Tuesday’s testimony.
The prosecution claims the doctor has Jackson’s life on his conscience.
In his opening statement, deputy district attorney David Walgren said: “The evidence… will show thatMichael Jackson literally put his life in the hands of Conrad Murray.
“That misplaced trust… cost Michael Jackson his life,” he added, claiming Murray was motivated more by his $150,000 a month contract with Jackson than by his duty of care to the singer.
The doctor made a series of phone calls — and even emailed an insurance agent dismissing media reports that Jackson was too sick to play the London concerts — while Jackson lay dying, Walgren said.
Walgren also played a recording of an apparently heavily drugged Jackson talking in a slurred voice to Murray a month and a half before his death — suggesting this showed the doctor was well aware of how ill Jackson was.
But Chernoff claimed that Murray only gave Jackson propofol after the star begged for it.
“If I don’t sleep, if I don’t get some sleep, I can’t complete my rehearsal. If I can’t complete my rehearsal, I can’t complete my show — and I will fail,” Jackson was quoted as saying.
Jackson’s mother Katherine and father Joe were in court, along with his siblings Jermaine, Janet, LaToya, Randy, Tito and Rebbie.
At least 300 fans and others gathered outside the court, some chanting “murderer” at Murray. At one point before the trial started a woman tried to attack the doctor, but was stopped by security guards, reports said.
The first witness called was Kenny Ortega, the director of Jackson’s “This Is It” shows — who revealed that Jackson was planning to take the show around the world and then to make films.
“He invited me to join him as a co-director to do (a) full-length feature film of ‘Thriller’ video,” as well as one based on his “Smooth Criminal” single, from the 1987 album “Bad.”
Of their last meeting, on the evening of June 24, 2009, Ortega said: “Michael was very happy… I told him that I loved him, he told me that he loved me more.”
Jackson gave him a hug and they parted, he said.
The panel to decide Murray’s fate includes six white jurors, five Hispanics and one African American. They include high school graduates, some jurors with a college education, and one with a master’s in business degree.