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For defense team, Jackson's fame may pose challenge

Michael Jackson first performed at the Apollo at

Michael Jackson first performed at the Apollo at its Amateur Night with his brothers in the late 1960s. They won, and their career as the Jackson Five was launched. Photo Credit: AP, 2005

LOS ANGELES - Michael Jackson’s fame could pose a challenge for Dr. Conrad Murray’s defense team as his lawyers fight an involuntary manslaughter charge against the physician in the singer’s death.

Citing the “popularity of Michael Jackson,” criminal defense
lawyer Harland Braun, who has handled celebrity cases and defended doctors in court, said Tuesday that Murray’s defense team has a monumental job ahead.

“How would (jurors) be accepted back into the community if they
acquit him?” Braun said. “It’s a tough case.”

Attorney Steve Cron, who also has handled medical cases, said
the attorneys are being confronted this week with a mountain of
evidence amassed by the Los Angeles Police Department during their nearly eight-month investigation.

“I would safely say there are tens of thousands of pages of
reports as well as CDs, videos, phone records and photographs.
“They will be looking at all of Michael Jackson’s medical records,
search warrant affidavits and reports on every person who was
interviewed,” Cron said.

Cron said Jackson’s interaction with the doctor and his alleged
demands for the drug propofol is likely to come into play.

"A bad result doesn’t mean bad doctoring,” said Cron. “They
will find an expert who will say he had a difficult, demanding
patient who needed to sleep and he did what was reasonable.”

Jackson died at the age of 50 on June 25 in his rented Bel Air
mansion. Murray, a Caribbean born physician who had been hired by the superstar to look after his health during a rigorous comeback
tour, told police he gave Jackson propofol and other sedatives to
help him sleep.

Murray’s lead counsel, Ed Chernoff, has said that nothing the
doctor gave Jackson should have killed him.

A coroner’s report found that the singer died of acute propofol
intoxication.

Deputy District Attorney David Walgren, who charged Murray with
involuntary manslaughter, will seek to prove he acted with “gross
negligence” when he gave the singer propofol. The anesthetic is
used in hospital situations for surgery and prosecution experts are
expected to say it was reckless to use it in a private home without
proper equipment.

“It will probably be a battle of the experts,“said McGregor
Scott, a San Francisco criminal defense lawyer who is also a former state and federal prosecutor. “If the defense comes up with a doctor with spotless credentials who says this was reasonable, that could create reasonable doubt.”

Some wonder if doctors will be willing to testify for Murray in
such a controversial case, but Scott said, “There’s always an
expert that can be found.”

He acknowledged that experts often demand high fees to testify
and Murray has been known to have financial troubles which led him to sign up as Jackson’s doctor in the first place. When Jackson
died, Murray had yet to collect his first $150,000 monthly paycheck
and the negative publicity forced him to stop practicing medicine
for months while his bills piled up. Recently, he reopened his
Houston office and said he would resume practicing in Las Vegas.

The California Medical Board is preparing to seek removal of
Murray’s medical license in the state. If other states where he
practices follow suit, his financial condition could grow even
worse.

Walgren, filed papers Monday saying that Murray “leads an
irresponsible and financially unstable life” and “has been the
subject of multiple liens, defaults and evictions.”

If true, it has not stopped Murray from hiring an impressive
three-person legal team to represent him. In addition to Chernoff,
his lawyers are J. Michael Flanagan, who once defended a nurse on propofol-related charges, and Joseph Low who represented two
Marines who were court-martialed on charges of crimes in Iraq.

Murray’s next court appearance is April 5 to schedule a
preliminary hearing.

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