LOS ANGELES -- Prosecutors told jurors yesterday that Michael Jackson was killed by the actions of his personal physician, who used a dangerous anesthetic without adequate safeguards and botched recovery efforts when he found the singer unconscious.
Defense attorneys countered that Jackson caused his own death by taking the drug propofol after his doctor left the room, in a desperate bid to overcome his chronic inability to sleep.
Nothing Dr. Conrad Murray could have done would have saved the King of Pop, defense attorney Ed Chernoff said, because Jackson was desperate to regain his fame and needed rest to prepare for a series of crucial comeback concerts.
The competing versions about Jackson's death and Murray's role in it were laid out in opening statements at the physician's trial for involuntary manslaughter.
Speaking for more than an hour, prosecutor David Walgren relied heavily on photos and audio recordings to make his case that Murray was an inept and reckless caretaker.
He showed a photo of a lifeless Jackson on a hospital gurney, and played a recording of Jackson speaking to Murray about six weeks before his death while, the prosecutor said, he was under the influence of an unknown substance. The singer's speech was heavily slurred but recognizable. He spoke of his hopes for the upcoming concerts.
"We have to be phenomenal," Jackson is heard telling Murray. "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. I've never seen nothing like this. Go. It's amazing. He's the greatest entertainer in the world."
Murray is accused of giving Jackson a lethal dose of propofol in the bedroom of the singer's rented mansion, but Chernoff said Jackson gave himself the fatal dose.
He claimed the singer swallowed several pills of the sedative lorazepam on the morning of his death and that was enough to put six people to sleep. He also said Jackson self-ingested propofol, and it killed him instantly.
Walgren, in his opening remarks, said Murray was grossly negligent in providing Jackson propofol. The prosecutor said that the doctor was shipped more than four gallons of the anesthetic, which is normally given in hospital settings.
He said Jackson trusted Murray as his physician. "That misplaced trust in Conrad Murray cost Michael Jackson his life," Walgren said.
A number of Jackson's family members were in the courthouse, including his father Joseph, mother Katherine, sisters LaToya and Janet, and brothers Jermaine, Randy and Tito. LaToya Jackson carried a sunflower, Michael's favorite.