More than two years after Michael Jackson's death, the biggest question of all is about to be answered.
At least, we sure hope it's going to be answered.
Opening statements are set to begin Tuesday in the city of Los Angeles' involuntary manslaughter case against Dr. Conrad Murray, a Houston-based cardiologist who is accused of administering an overdose of a surgery-grade sedative that killed Jackson on June 25, 2009.
The trial is expected to last at least five weeks, but we'll have you fully informed in five minutes with our handy Jackson trial cheat sheet.
Murray is charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter, which, in California, is an unlawful killing that takes place either during the commission of an unlawful non-felony act, or during the commission of a lawful act that involves a high risk of death or great bodily harm that is committed without due caution or circumspection. If convicted, Murray faces a maximum of four years in prison, the loss of his medical license, up to $10,000 in fines and formal probation. The doctor, who is currently barred from practicing medicine in California, has pleaded not guilty.
Murray had been employed for a short time as Jackson's personal physician, having been hired by AEG Live, which was producing Jackson's This Is It concert series, to the tune of $150,000 a month. After Jackson's death, Murray claimed that he hadn't yet been paid for any of his services. The doctor, who kept offices in Houston and Las Vegas, was revealed to be in dire financial straits and was behind on child support payments. Since his arrest in February 2010, Murray has been free on $75,000 bail and has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
Murray claims that he had been trying to wean Jackson off of the anesthetic propofol, which the pop icon had been using regularly to get to sleep. Despite witness statements to the contrary, Murray says that only about 10 minutes passed between the time he discovered Jackson unconscious and the time he called 911. His legal camp, headed up by Texas-based counselor Edward Chernoff, is prepared to argue that Jackson injected himself with the fatal dose of propofol. In order to represent Murray, Chernoff took the California Bar Exam. His cocounsel are L.A.-based Michael Flanagan and Nareg Gourjian.
Deputy District Attorneys David Walgren and Deborah Brazil, 16- and 15-year veterans of the L.A. County District Attorney's Office, will argue that Murray was negligent in his treatment of Jackson and that his carelessness and bad judgment resulted in the singer's death.
L.A. Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor, named Judge of the Year in 2007 by the L.A. County Bar Association, is one of only 10 judges in the entire Superior Court system designated to preside over "complex criminal litigation." He is allowing cameras in the courtroom and refused the defense's wish to sequester the jury for the duration of the trial, calling it an unnecessary burden on the jurors. Just today, Pastor ruled that video of Jackson's final press conference will not be shown during the trial. Murray's attorneys had claimed that Jackson appeared to be "under the influence" in the video and was prepared to scale back his planned concert schedule from 50 to 10 dates.
Seven men and five women have been sworn in, with Flanagan saying Friday, "It seems like a good jury panel." There are also five alternates. In deciding not to sequester them, Pastor noted that the jury would be subject to "very strict rules and regulations."
- Fun Fact No. 1: When asked during selection if anyone was unfamiliar with Jackson or Murray or had not heard anything about the case, not one of the 100-plus potential jurors raised his or her hand.
- Fun Fact No. 2: The prosecution used one of its 10 peremptory challenges on Connie Rice, a prominent L.A. civil rights attorney who has been vocally critical of the LAPD.
You may have heard of Michael Jackson's nearest, dearest and not-so-near-or-dear: Mother Katherine; father Joe; brothers Jermaine, Tito, Randy, Marlon and Jackie; sisters Janet and La Toya; and children Prince Michael, Paris Katherine and Prince Michael II. While the kids obviously haven't spoken out in public about such things, at least every Jackson older than 14 is gunning for justice.
- "He killed him. He wasn't monitoring him," Katherine Jackson told reporters after Murray's arraignment last year.
- Joe Jackson has sued Murray for wrongful death.
- "Michael was murdered, and although he died at the hands of Dr. Conrad Murray, I believe Dr. Murray was a part of a much larger plan," was La Toya Jackson's opinion.
- "I just feel like it took so long to arrest this guy," Jermaine complained last year.
- "He was the one that was administering," Janet Jackson said of Murray in a 2009 interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts. "I think he is responsible." When asked this past February on TODAY if she still believed Murray was culpable, she replied, "Mmm-hmm. And that's all I'm going to say. I do. I really do."
Walgren has said that he plans to call witnesses chronologically, starting with the those who were working with Jackson in the months before his death and ending with law-enforcement and medical experts who analyzed the aftermath. After opening statements have been made, first up will be choreographer and This Is It director Kenny Ortega, who testified at a previous hearing that Murray had advised him not to worry about Jackson's health. Ortega is expected to be followed by AEG Live's Paul Gongaware.
Also on the docket are Jackson bodyguard Alberto Alvarez and Las Vegas pharmacist Tom Lopez, who previously stated that he shipped large amounts of propofol — prescribed by Murray — to Jackson's home in the weeks leading up to his death. Jackson's eldest son and daughter, who were at home when life-saving efforts were made on their dad, are not on either side's list of potential witnesses. Otherwise, the entire Jackson family has made the prosecution's list.
E! Online will be livestreaming the trial, starting Tuesday at 8 a.m. PT
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