LOS ANGELES — Jurors at the trial of the doctor accused of killing Michael Jackson on Tuesday heard the pop star’s slurred words while he was on a powerful anesthetic, caught on tape weeks before his death. They also saw a photo of his pale body lying on a gurney after he died from an overdose of a powerful anesthetic.
The sounds and images were just part of the multimedia presentation that prosecutors presented during opening statements at the involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray.
Deputy District Attorney David Walgren described Jackson as “highly under the influence” when speaking with Murray in May 2009, roughly six weeks before his death. The singer is heard slurring his words and barely audible, saying he wanted to impress those who watched his upcoming comeback concerts.
“When people leave my show, I want them to say, `I’ve never seen nothing like this in my life,'” the voice on the recording says.
On June 25, 2009, Jackson died of an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol.
“What happened during that time frame is that the acts and omissions of Michael Jackson’s personal doctor Conrad Murray directly led to his premature death at age 50,” Walgren told jurors.
He said Jackson trusted Murray as his physician.
“That misplaced trust in Conrad Murray cost Michael Jackson his life,” Walgren said.
“He left him there, abandoned him to fend for himself,” the prosecutor said later while winding down his opening remarks.
Walgren also provided details on shipments of propofol sent to Murray, saying the physician was sent more than four gallons of the anesthetic in the time he worked for Jackson.
The doctor had initially requested $5 million to work for the singer for a year, but accepted the lower rate of $150,000 a month, Walgren said. His contract to be Jackson’s personal physician was never signed and he was never paid.
He told jurors that Murray deceived paramedics and emergency room doctors by not telling them he had been giving Jackson propofol as a sleep aid. He also called the doctor inept and said he repeatedly deviated from the standard of care by leaving the singer alone while under sedation and not immediately calling 911 when he found the singer was unconscious.
Murray never called for emergency services himself, instead waiting more than 20 minutes to have one of Jackson’s bodyguards make the call.
“Basic common sense requires 911 be called immediately,” Walgren said. “Basic common sense. And we know that was not done.”
Testimony was expected to begin later in the day, with prosecutors planning to call the pop superstar’s friend and choreographer, Kenny Ortega.
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 flower.
Murray arrived holding hands with his mother.
Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and he and his attorneys have denied he gave Jackson anything that should have killed the pop superstar.
The trial opened with the one thing the King of Pop enjoyed throughout his life – a worldwide audience.
Proceedings will be televised and broadcast online. More than a dozen satellite trucks and news vans were parked within a block of the courthouse.
Much of the testimony will focus on propofol, which is normally administered in hospital settings. Authorities contend Murray administered a lethal dose of the drug along with other sedatives, and lacked the proper lifesaving equipment to revive Jackson.
Defense attorneys will present an alternate theory – that Jackson ingested or somehow gave himself the fatal dose.
While much is known about Jackson’s death, the trial will reveal new information and provide a detailed record of the singer’s final hours. Murray’s trial is expected to be the first time that the public hears – in the defendant’s own words – his account of what happened in the bedroom of Jackson’s rented mansion.
Defense attorneys for Murray, who could face four years in prison and the loss of his medical license if convicted of involuntary manslaughter, were expected to present jurors with their own theory that the singer was culpable for his own death.
Ortega testified at a hearing earlier this year that Murray warned him not to try to act as Jackson’s physician or psychiatrist after Ortega sent the singer home from rehearsals for his final concerts because he appeared to be sick.
Prosecutors plan to play a recording of the physician’s interview with police conducted two days after Jackson’s death, when he revealed that he had been giving the entertainer propofol as a sleep aid. The disclosure led to Murray being charged in February 2010 and nearly 20 months of legal wrangling over how the trial will be conducted.
Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor has limited what Murray’s lawyers can say about Jackson’s history with drugs and his financial troubles. Prosecutors are similarly prohibited from mentioning some of the messy details of the doctor’s personal life, including his sizeable debts and that he had several mistresses.