LOS ANGELES – Michael Jackson’s doctor was guilty of “gross negligence” which led to the pop icon’s death, a prosecutor said Tuesday – but the medic’s lawyer countered bluntly that the star killed himself. At the start of Conrad Murray’s long-awaited manslaughter trial, his lawyer said the King of Pop took two different drugs while the doctor was out of the room at the star’s rented Holmby Hills mansion on June 25, 2009.
In haunting scenes, a photo of Jackson’s dead body under a white cover on a hospital gurney was shown in the court, which also heard an audio recording of the star apparently heavily drugged, less than two months before his death. “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,” said Murray’s lawyer Ed Chernoff. Jackson “did this when Dr. Murray was not around,” Chernoff said, claiming the 50-year-old singer also gave himself an extra dose of the powerful sedative propofol, which he was using to help him get to sleep. “The scientific evidence will show you that when Dr Murray left the room, Michael Jackson self-administered a dose of propofol that, with the lorazepam, created a perfect storm in his body.” The combination “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, as the star was preparing for a series of comeback concerts. Specifically the physician is alleged to have given Jackson an overdose of the powerful sedative propofol – which Jackson himself referred to as “milk” – to help alleviate his insomnia.
Deputy district attorney David Walgren said: “Michael literally put his life in the hands of Conrad Murray. That misplaced trust… cost Michael Jackson his life,” adding Murray was motivated more by his $150,000 contract with Jackson than by his duty of care to the singer. 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.
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 lined up 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.