Michael Jackson: Dr. Conrad Murray trial – September 27, 2011 recap, photos — Proceedings got under way in Los Angeles on Tuesday in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray for the death of entertainer, Michael Jackson. Events of the day included opening statements by both the prosecution and the defense and testimony from the first two witnesses in the case.
Supporters for both Michael Jackson and, perhaps surprisingly to some, also Dr. Murray stood outside of the courtroom holding signs and speaking with reporters. As they have traditionally done for Mr. Jackson’s other court proceedings in the past, the Jackson family was out in force to sit in on the trial. Both the entertainer’s parents, Katherine and Joe Jackson, and several of his siblings, including — Janet Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Randy Jackson, and LeToya Jackson were in attendance at the Los Angeles County courtroom.
Prosecution Opening Statement:
After a brief delay, Superior Court Judge Michael E. Pastor gave some instructions to the jury and then opening statements began. Lead prosecutor, David Walgren laid out the state’s case against Dr. Murray through photographs, a power-point style of presentation, audio clips, and video clips. One of the most memorable visuals he presented was what appeared to be a photograph of the deceased Mr. Jackson on a hospital gurney or bed. Over this faint image on the screen, Mr. Walgren presented several of his key points as he made them.
The element of his opening statement perhaps making the most lasting impact, however, was an audio recording allegedly made by Dr. Conrad Murray on his cell phone of Mr. Jackson while he was in his care. The recording, retrieved from the physician’s phone, was dated May 10, 2009, just a few weeks before the singer’s death.
In the recording, Mr. Jackson speaks with slurred speech about wanting the show he was creating to be “phenomenal” so that people would leave it and say they’ve never seen anything like it and would urge other people to “go” see it. He also talked about using millions of dollars to establish a Michael Jackson Children’s Hospital. The context of the recording was not revealed, nor was it clear what substance or condition was affecting Mr. Jackson’s speech.
The prosecution intends to show that by providing the singer with propofol and through other poor treatment practices such as leaving him alone while under the influence of propofol and other drugs, Dr. Conrad Murray was grossly negligent as Mr. Jackson’s physician and deserves to be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Defense Opening Statement:
Attorney Ed Chernoff made the defense opening statement. He told the jury that the defense case would be “scientific” in nature, focusing on the drugs in the entertainer’s body, their amounts, as well as who had administered them and when. He laid out a plan of argument that he said would show Dr. Murray was trying to wean Mr. Jackson off of propofol with other medications and that it was not giving him that drug that day that killed the singer but rather his attempt to stop giving him propofol without full knowledge of what other medications he was on that created a problem. He maintained that the defense will show that Dr. Arnold Klein, Mr. Jackson’s dermatologist, had “addicted him to Demerol” (a painkiller) and that such an addiction creates a side effect of not being able to sleep.
Mr. Chernoff also said the defense will attempt to prove that Mr. Jackson himself self-administered more drugs on the day of his death that created a “perfect storm” of a deadly cocktail. Mr. Chernoff said that Mr. Jackson’s “perfect storm” of drugs killed him so quickly that he didn’t even have time “to close his eyes.” He said Dr. Murray’s efforts to resuscitate the singer or call 911 seemed fairly useless because it was clear that he was already dead when the physician returned to the room.
Dr. Murray showed emotion when Mr. Chernoff spoke about his taking over his father’s practice at a low-income facility for the aging and treating them for little or no fee. He continued to shed tears while his friendship with Michael Jackson was described. “They were friends first,” Mr. Chernoff said.
The first witness called by the prosecution was director and choreographer, Kenny Ortega. Mr. Ortega has worked with Michael Jackson several times not only on the This Is It project but also on the singer’s Dangerous and History tours. He testified that Mr. Jackson wanted to do the new tour for many reasons but probably the two most prominent were so that his children could see him perform and as a gift back to his fans who have stood by him for many years, through good times and bad.
Mr. Ortega also testified that at one point Mr. Jackson stopped coming to rehearsals and on one day he arrived in very bad shape – with chills and trembling. After trying to care for him himself that evening, Mr. Ortega wrote an email to Randy Phillips, a person involved in the business side of This Is It, expressing concern for the “artist” and saying how he knew the singer wanted to do the tour. He was concerned that the “artist” would be shattered if they had to “pull the plug” on the tour and wanted to help him or see him get help. The next day, Mr. Ortega said he was summoned to a meeting at Michael Jackson’s house where he said Dr. Murray spoke to him in a “stern” manner and advised him to stop playing “amateur psychologist” and doctor and to just direct the show – that Dr. Murray would take care of the singer’s health.
On cross-examination, Mr. Ortega was asked by Ed Chernoff whether his own interests were at stake in making sure that Mr. Jackson came back and moved on with the tour. Mr. Ortega said that Mr. Jackson not showing up for rehearsals was keeping him from doing his job.
The second witness called was Paul Gongaware, co-CEO of AEG, a producer and promoter of the This Is It tour. He was questioned by Deborah Brazil, another member of the prosecution team. Mr. Gongaware testified that the number of 31 shows selected for the concert tour was 10 more than entertainer Prince had sold out at the O2 Arena in London. He said that Mr. Jackson chose that number for that reason. When the initial 10 released dates sold out as a promotional strategy (and also to see how the shows would do in sales — only 10 shows was never the goal, he testified), and the 31 shows did also, the number of shows planned was increased to 50. The promoter said that even after the 50th show was sold out, there were still 250,000 people “in the queue” waiting to purchase tickets, or enough to put on 50 more Michael Jackson shows.
Day two of the trial will begin Wednesday morning with more of the prosecution’s case and witnesses. If Dr. Conrad Murray is found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson, he faces up to four years in jail.