A shocking photo of Michael Jackson¹s lifeless body was shown to jurorsTuesday as the manslaughter trial began against the King of Pop’s doctor, setting an emotional tone to the opening argument.
Now more than two years after Jackson’s sudden death by drug overdose, prosecutor David Walgren told jurors that the pop star “literally put his life in the hands of Dr. Conrad Murray.”
“That misplaced trust ... cost Michael Jackson his life,” Walgren added. He started the prosecution by showing a photo of a thin, lifeless Jackson lying on a gurney, side by side with a picture of Jackson rehearsing the day before.
Trying to prove that Murray, 58, knew the drugs were putting Jackson in danger, prosecutors also played a recording of the singer months before his death, in which the drugs allegedly slurred his speech. But Murray’s attorneys argued that Jackson “caused his own death” on June 25, 2009, by giving himself extra medication.
“We believe the evidence will show ... that when Dr. Murray left the room, Michael Jackson self-administered a dose of Propofol that, with the Lorazepam, created a perfect storm within his body that killed him instantly,” Ed Chernoff said in opening arguments.
“He died so rapidly, so instantly, he didn¹t even have time to close his eyes,” Chernoff said.
Matthew Galluzzo, former Manhattan prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer at the firm Galluzzo & Johnson, said that showing the photo probably shocked onlookers more than jurors, and that its ultimate impact may not be all that important.
“I thought it was theatrical, a little dramatic, but I don¹t know how really powerful it is,” he said, adding that the prosecution’s argument that Jackson¹s life was in Murray¹s hands will likely play well.
Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, but he faces up to four years if the jury finds him responsible for Jackson’s death becauseof inadequate care.
He has admitted giving the 50-year-old pop star a dose of the powerful anesthetic Propofol as a sleeping aid, but Chernoff told jurors Murray was trying to break Jackson’s addiction to the drug, which he called his “milk.”
The trial is expected to last four to six weeks.
Prosecutors played jurors an audio recording that Conrad Murray made in May 2009 of Michael Jackson "highly under the influence of unknown agents," rambling and slurring his words while talking about his comeback "This Is It" tour. Below is a transcript:
- "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. I've never seen nothing like this. Go. It's amazing. He's the greatest entertainer in the world.' "
- "I'm taking that money, a million children, children's hospital the biggest in the world. Michael Jackson's Children's Hospital."
Follow reporter Tim Herrera on Twitter: @tim_herrera