The attorney for the doctor charged in connection with the June 2009 death of U.S. pop star Michael Jackson says the singer's own actions led to his death.
Doctor Conrad Murray is charged with involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson the powerful anesthetic propofol and then failing to properly monitor the singer's health. But Murray's attorney, Ed Chernoff, told jurors Tuesday that Murray had refused to give Jackson the medication.
Chernoff said Jackson took the propofol himself and overdosed, dying so quickly "he did not even have time to close his eyes." At one point during the trial, Murray wiped away tears as Chernoff defended him.
In his opening statement, prosecutor David Walgren accused Murray of abandoning the so-called "King of Pop" in his time of need. He said Murray was driven by greed and an arrangement to be paid $150,000 a month.
Prosecutors have said Murray gave Jackson the lethal dose and lacked the equipment that could have saved the singer's life.
Punishment if convicted
Murray, a cardiologist, faces four years in prison and the loss of his medical license if convicted.
The first witness to testify in the case was Kenny Ortega, Jackson's friend and the choreographer for a series of comeback concerts the singer was planning. Ortega had been rehearsing with Jackson in the days before the entertainer's death. Ortega told the court that Jackson was in bad shape, physically and mentally, in the days leading up to Jackson's death. Ortega testified he voiced concerns about Jackson's health in an email to concert promoters. Ortega said the email led to a confrontation with Murray, who told Ortega not to interfere.
Ortega also said that within a few days, Jackson appeared to have recovered his energy and was full of enthusiasm for the show.
Michael Jackson (File)
The singer died suddenly at the age of 50 on June 25, 2009, at his rented mansion in Los Angeles. Murray had been giving Jackson propofol to help him sleep, even though the drug was not approved for use as a sleeping aid.
Hundreds of people - many of them Jackson fans - have gathered outside the Los Angeles Superior Court. Some of Jackson's family members, including his parents and his sisters, Janet and LaToya, were in the courtroom for the proceedings, which are also being broadcast live on television.
Officials have said they expect the trial to take about five weeks. Apart from the criminal trial, Jackson's father has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, accusing Murray of lying to the doctors and paramedics trying to save the singer's life.