The Michael Jackson’s death trial opened with an extraordinary moment this afternoon as the prosecutor started his opening remarks by displaying a photo of the singer’s dead body.
As Dr. Conrad Murray appeared before the jury charged with involuntary manslaughter over Michael Jackson’s death in 2009, deputy district attorney David Walgren displayed the picture that appeared to show tape or tubing over Jackson’s face.
Opposing fans of Michael Jackson and supporters of Dr. Conrad Murray gathered outside the courthouse in Los Angeles waving placards and banners as the whole Jackson family made their way into court for what has been billed as the trial of the century.
“Michael Jackson’s death was a homicide,” Los Angeles deputy district attorney David Walgren told the jury in opening statements.
“The evidence will show that Michael Jackson literally put his life in the hands of Conrad Murray… Michael Jackson trusted his life to the medical skills of Conrad Murray.
“The evidence will show that misplaced trust had far too high a price to pay… it cost Michael Jackson his life.”
Dr. Conrad Murray’s defense attorney Ed Chernoff told the jury that Michael Jackson caused his own death.
Dr. Conrad Murray wiped tears from his eyes as Ed Chernoff said that the evidence will show that the singer swallowed 8, 2 mg pills of Lorazepam and injected himself with a dose of propofol.
Ed Chernoff said that Michael Jackson, who was frustrated because he could not sleep and frustrated because his doctor refused to give him a drug that he wanted, “did an act that caused his own death”.
“He died so fast he did not even have time to close his eyes,” Ed Chernoff said.
He also told jurors their job is not to determine whether the physician is a good doctor or not.
Michael Jackson’s parents, his siblings Janet, La Toya, Tito, Randy and Jermaine are all at the courthouse in LA for the opening statements in the trial of the singer’s personal physician, who was the last person to see him alive.
District deputy attorney David Walgren insisted that the evidence will show that the “acts and omissions of Michael Jackson’s personal doctor Conrad Murray directly led to his premature death at the age of 50”.
Dr. Conrad Murray “repeatedly acted with gross negilience, repeatedly denied appropriate care to his patient Michael Jackson and that is was Dr Murray’s repeated incompetent and unskilled acts that led to Michael Jackson’s death on June 25 2009,” attorney Walgren said.
David Walgren played disturbing audio recorded on Dr. Conrad Murray’s iPhone of Michael Jackson apparently under the influence of propofol a month before his death.
On the recording, Michael Jackson sounded slurred and confused as he mumbled: “We have to be phenomenal… When people leave this show, when people leave my show, I want them to say, <<I’ve never seen nothing like this in my life. Go. Go.>>”
The prosecutor said the audio was evidence that Dr. Murray knew what was happening to Michael Jackson and should have discontinued ordering propofol.
He also attempted to paint a picture of the days leading up to the singer’s death.
“On June 19th Michael showed up for his rehearsal and he was not in good shape, he was not in good shape at all,” David Walgren said.
“He had chills, he was trembling… he was rambling.”
Kenny Ortega, Michael Jackson’s manager, who proposed This Is It tour, expressed concerns about Michael, but Dr. Conrad Murray allegedly told him and others that Jackson was “physically and emotionally fine”.
“Don’t let it be your concern, I am the doctor,” Dr. Conrad Murray allegedly said.
David Walgren also laid out the order of events from inside Michael Jackson’s house on the night that he died.
The prosecutor accused Dr. Conrad Murray of failing to call 911 as soon as he realized that there was something wrong with Michael Jackson.
An emergency call was not made until 12:20pm, at least 24 minutes after Dr. Murray is believed to have discovered Michael Jackson unconscious.
During a phone call at 11:51am with a cocktail waitress that Conrad Murray regarding as his girlfriend, the doctor became silent and the phone went dead, prosecutor said.
“This is likely the time Conrad Murray first noticed Michael Jackson’s lifeless body,” David Walgren said.
He claimed that phone records showed that Michael Jackson was left unattended for too long.
“It will be clear that Conrad Murray abandoned Michael when he needed help.”
“It was Conrad Murray’s gross negligence, it was Conrad Murray’s unskilled hands and his desire to obtain this lucrative contract of $150,000 a month that led Dr. Murray to not only abandon his patient, but to abandon all principles of medical care.”
Prosecutor Walgren also showed images of Michael Jackson’s bedroom to show how medical monitoring devices typically used when someone is under anesthesia were not there or appeared unused.
A blood pressure cuff was still in a box and an oxygen tank had no oxygen.
As the defense made their opening statements, Murray wiped away tears as lawyer Ed Chernoff described the doctor and Michael Jackson as “friends first”.
“Dr. Murray is no celebrity doctor. He is a cardiologist. He literally saves lives. That’s who he is.”
Ed Chernoff said that on the day he died, Michael Jackson had told Dr. Murray that he not slept for 10 hours and that if he did not sleep he would not be able to rehearse and would disappoint his fans.
Dr. Conrad Murray agreed to give him a 25 mg injection of propofol mixed with lidocaine.
Ed Chernoff claimed that Michael Jackson had become unable to sleep because he was being withdrawn from the painkiller Demerol, which he had been receiving from his dermatologist.
In his opening statement, prosecutor David Walgren told the jury that between 6 April, 2009, and the day of Michael Jackson’s death on June 25, Dr. Murray ordered enough propofol to give Jackson 1,937 milligrams a day.
Defense lawyers claimed Dr. Conrad Murray had been trying to wean Michael Jackson off propofol and gave him only a minimal dosage.
The lawyers claimed also that the King of Pop, desperate for sleep, swallowed an additional dose of the drug when his doctor was out of the room.
The defense’s theory is based on evidence that a trace amount of propofol was found in Michael Jackson’s stomach.
Medical witnesses may be asked to explain how it could have been found in his stomach, as ingesting it orally is almost unheard of.
Propofol is used to reduce anxiety and tension, and promotes relaxation and sleep or loss of consciousness. The drug provides loss of awareness for short diagnostic tests and surgical procedures, sleep at the beginning of surgery, and supplements other types of general anaesthetics. Long-term use of propofol can result in addiction. The steep dose-response curve of the drug makes potential misuse very dangerous without proper monitoring.
Side effects of propofol include: difficulty breathing, wheezing, fast heartbeat, palpitations, seizures, uncontrollable muscle spasm and swelling or extreme pain at the injection site.
At 12.12 pm Dr. Murray called Michael Jackson’s personal assistant Michael Williams and left a message saying: “Call me right away, please. Please call me right away. Thank you.”
When Williams immediately called Dr. Murray back he told him: “Get here right away Mr. Jackson had a bad reaction, he had a bad reaction”, according to prosecutors.
Dr. Murray had yet to call 911 at this point.
Michael Williams then called security guard Albert Alvarez to go and investigate and he said that when he entered Michael Jackson’s room, he was lying on the bed and Dr. Murray was administering CPR.
According to the prosecution, Conrad Murray then ordered the security guard to grab a bag while he started grabbing vials and a saline bag hanging from the IV stand to put inside the bag.
That bag was later found inside Michael Jackson’s home.
Prosecutors also say Murray ordered someone to clean up signs that Michael Jackson had been receiving a variety of medications, including propofol, and that he improperly monitored the singer’s vital signs, performed inadequate CPR and did not inform emergency medical personnel that he had given the musician propofol.
A recorded conversation that Dr. Conrad Murray had two days after Michael Jackson’s death was played where Murray can be heard saying that he gave his patient a small dose of propofol and then left him for 15 minutes to go to the bathroom.
“Then I came back to his bedside and was shocked because he wasn’t breathing,” the physician says in the audio recorded on June 27. Prosecutors allege that he was gone for a lot longer.
At 12.30 pm, paramedics arrived at Michael Jackson’s home and treated him for 42 minutes before transporting him to nearby Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
The ambulance arrived at hospital at 1.14 pm and a team of doctors tried for more than an hour to resuscitate the singer.
Michael Jackson was declared dead at 2.26 pm with members of his family by his side.
Millions of people around the world are expected to watch as the trial gives a glimpse into final days of Michael Jackson.
Crowds of people gathered at the Los Angeles Superior Court where there was a lottery drawn for seats for the opening statements.
Supporters of both Dr. Conrad Murray, 57, and Michael Jackson are outside the courthouse with signs including, “Fair trial for Dr Murray” and “Doctors are expected to heal not kill”.
The list of potential witnesses includes his eldest children Prince Michael and Paris, who have reportedly said that they want to take to the stand to testify.
Medical examiners have determined Michael Jackson’s death at the age of 50 on June 25 2009, at his rented Los Angeles mansion was due to an overdose of the powerful anaesthetic propofol and sedatives.
Prosecutors said Dr. Conrad Murray caused Michael Jackson’s death by giving him propofol as a sleep aid, and failing to monitor him properly.
Dr. Conrad Murray denies the charge of involuntary manslaughter but faces a prison sentence of up to four years if convicted.
Murray’s defense team is expected to argue that Michael Jackson was addicted to various painkillers and sedatives and gave himself the fatal dose of propofol, possibly by swallowing it.
The trial is expected to hear testimony from the paramedics who transported Michael Jackson to the hospital, medical experts, Jackson’s choreographer and Dr. Murray’s girlfriends.
Celebrity attorney Mark Geragos, who once represented Michael Jackson and has closely watched the criminal case against Dr. Conrad Murray, said that Jackson’s 13-year-old daughter Paris might also be called to testify, in what would likely be one of the most dramatic moments of the trial.
“She not only has things to say, but she can say it in a compelling way,” Mark Geragos said. Paris Jackson was at the house when the singer stopped breathing.
Michael Jackson’s children, Prince Michael, 14, and Paris, 13, have both reportedly told their grandmother Katherine of their desire to want to testify.
Prince Michael, Paris and Blanket were all included on a potential witness list passed out to the jurors in an attempt to ascertain their familiarity with the family.
Also listed were Michael Jackson’ siblings Janet, LaToya, Jermaine, Marlon, Rebbie, Tito and Randy as well as parents Katherine and Joe Jackson.
The Michael Jackson case is one of a small but growing number of U.S. criminal prosecutions of doctors for alleged malpractice.
The responses of the 12-person jury to written questionnaires made public last week shows that none of them reported having a negative experience with doctors.
At the time of his death, Michael Jackson was readying himself for 50 planned shows in London called “This Is It.”