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Video: Will the Jackson doctor trial be as big as OJ’s?

  1. Closed captioning of: Will the Jackson doctor trial be as big as OJ’s?

    >>> more of michael jackson 's personal physician, held in the same city and same courthouse as o.j. simpson 's high profile trial. will this case become another trial of the century ? here's nbc's lee cowan.

    >> the mere mention of o.j. simpson outside the l.a. courthouse tuesday brought groans to journalists old enough to have covered that trial.

    >> slow down just a second.

    >> reporter: on the very same sidewalk back in 1994 , day in and day out covering o.j., a legal groundhog day like few others. there's a temptation already to compare that circus with this one. the trial of michael jackson 's doctor, conrad murray . even the courtroom scenes look eerily similar. the impersonators, banners, t-shirts and messages even in the sky. some say that's where the similarities end.

    >> this will probably be the trial of the year. i don't think it will be the trial of the century .

    >> reporter: the o.j. case was an obsession for some, there was intrigue, mystery, a tragic whodunit, but the death of michael jackson is either a case about medical negligence , as the prosecution contends or a self-inflicted overdose, as the defense maintains.

    >> in the o.j. simpson trial , there were camps, is he guilty, is he innocent? there were arguments, there were racial divisions, there were class divisions. in this case, it's just sort of a fascination about michael jackson , his life and his death.

    >> reporter: there's no glove that doesn't fit, no expensive shoe prints no, missing murder weapon. still there is a flair for the dramatic. prosecutors have already showed the jury a picture of jackson 's lifeless body and played his recorded voice, too. they say under the influence of drugs.

    >> when people leave my show, i want them to say, i've never seen nothing like this in my life.

    >> reporter: at the very least we may have learned something from the case. the jurors in the conrad murray trial are not sequestered like the simpson jury is in part the judge says so they won't feel trapped. how can they avoid this?

    >> was it an accident, you wait until you call 911?

    >> reporter: tv coverage is wall to wall just like o.j. but in this new age of smartphones and social networking sites , conrad murray 's trial is showing up in places that o.j. simpson never imagined. all i want to say is that they don't really care about us

    >> reporter: after all, jackson was the king of pop and also the king of spectacle. while the case may not divide a nation it does have a nation very curious. for "today," lee cowan, nbc news, los angeles .

    >> msnbc's martin bashir interviewed michael jackson in 2003 , lola ogua committee, does this compare, could it rival the o.j. simpson trial , martin in.

    >> me first?

    >> yes.

    >> i don't think it will, because i think that the prosecution have played their most effective card on the first day. they showed two things, one, a shocking and disturbing series of photographs of mr. jackson when he was alive the day before and then suddenly deceased on a gurney, and the second thing is, they played that sound tape, which was also equally disturbing. i don't know what else they have apart from the arguments about medical negligence .

    >> lola, what do you think?

    >> i don't this i it will be the trial of the century at all. i believe it will be the trial of the year. maybe not even. who could rival casey anthony ?

    >> right.

    >> the trials tend to get a lot of play because they're basically reality shows at large.

    >> you say about his final days. this isn't a trial about conrad murray . this is a trial of michael jackson . if you asked 100 people what's the guy's name who is on trial in the michael jackson case ? i would say 50%, 60% probably don't know his name.

    >> that's why this trial is not so much about the content, it's about the legacy of a cultural icon . people will be fighting over the memory of this man, and it will either give gris tt to the view he used drugs persistently?

    >> this going to harm the legacy of the pop star ?

    >> the defense has to paint him as an insomniac junkie who went doctor shopping . people came to rediscover michael jackson after his death as an artist, celebrated entertainer performer.

    >> controversial.

    >> controversial but came to appreciate his music. now we have to hear the tawdry details of a career that was just undergoing rehabilitation.

    >> michael jackson 's family will be in court quite often.

    >> and tweeting and latoya jackson has been tweeting inside the courtroom.

    >> i don't know if all of them will be in court every single day becausele this be a complex and probably prolonged series of legal arguments. i think that will have an effect but also remember this is a character. people keep saying oh well it's going to be like casey anthony . casey anthony 's status was defined by the trial. michael jackson is a cultural icon way before this trial, 30

    >> there was a waiting list.

    >> that's the status of jackson .

    >> 250,000 people wanted to buy tickets.

    >> martin bashir defending the "today" show, there is the headline. thanks very much.

    >>> up next, martha stewart teaches ann how to bake cookies,

Image: Dr. Conrad Murray
Al Seib  /  AP
Dr. Conrad Murray faces four years in prison and the loss of his medical license if convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Michael Jackson's death.
By
updated 9/30/2011 12:29:54 PM ET 2011-09-30T16:29:54

First, prosecutors showed a photo of Michael Jackson's pale and lifeless body lying on a gurney. Then, they played a recording of his voice, just weeks before his death.

Slow and slurred, his words echoed Tuesday through a Los Angeles courtroom at the start of the trial of the doctor accused of killing him. As a worldwide audience watched on TV and Jackson's family looked on from inside the courtroom, a drugged Jackson said:

"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.'"

Video: Chilling audio, photos at trial of Jackson’s doctor (on this page)
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Prosecutors played the audio for the first time during opening statements as they portrayed Dr. Conrad Murray, 58, as an incompetent physician who used a dangerous anesthetic without adequate safeguards and whose neglect left the superstar abandoned as he lay dying.

Defense attorneys countered that Jackson caused his own death by taking a drug dose, including propofol, after Murray left the room.

Nothing the cardiologist could have done would have saved the King of Pop, defense attorney Ed Chernoff told jurors, because Jackson was desperate to regain his fame and needed rest to prepare for a series of crucial comeback concerts.

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, her brother's favorite flower.

The family's most emotional moment came when the prosecutor played a video excerpt from Jackson's "This Is It" rehearsal in which he sang "Earth Song," a plea for better treatment of the environment.

As Jackson sang the words, "I used to dream. I used to glance beyond the stars," his mother, Katherine, dabbed at her eyes with a tissue.

Story: Cheat sheet for Michael Jackson doctor's trial

Prosecutor David Walgren noted it was Jackson's last performance.

Murray, who arrived at court holding hands with his mother, has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, he could face up to four years in prison and the loss of his medical license.

Speaking for more than an hour, Walgren relied on photos and audio recordings to paint Murray as an inept and reckless caretaker.

Walgren showed a photo of a lifeless Jackson on a hospital gurney. He juxtaposed the image with those of Jackson performing. Walgren also played the recording of Jackson speaking to Murray while, the prosecutor said, the singer was under the influence of an unknown substance roughly six weeks before his death.

Jackson trusted Murray as his physician, and "that misplaced trust in Conrad Murray cost Michael Jackson his life," Walgren said.

The recurring theme was Jackson's never-ending quest for sleep and propofol, the potion he called his "milk" and that he believed was the answer. Jurors were told that it was a powerful anesthetic, not a sleep aid, and the prosecutor said Murray severely misused it.

The prosecutor said while working for Jackson, the doctor was shipped more than four gallons of the anesthetic, which is normally given in hospital settings.

Story: Michael Jackson saw salvation in dangerous drug

Chernoff, the defense attorney, 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. After taking a self-administered dose of propofol, Jackson did not even have a chance to close his eyes, Chernoff said, claiming he died instantly.

Chernoff, who had long hinted that the defense would blame Jackson for his own death, added a surprise. He claimed that Jackson died not because his doctor continued to give him the drug but because he stopped it, forcing Jackson to take extreme measures.

"What we will hear is that Dr. Murray provided propofol for two months to Michael Jackson for sleep," Chernoff said. "During those two months, Michael Jackson slept. He woke up and he lived his life.

"The evidence will not show you that Michael Jackson died because Dr. Murray gave him propofol. The evidence is going to show you Michael Jackson died when Dr. Murray stopped," the attorney said.

He said Murray was trying to wean Jackson off of propofol and had been giving him other sleep aids known as benzodiazepines trying to lull him to sleep.

On June 25, 2009, the last day of Jackson's life, Chernoff said, he was in the third day of a weaning process and it didn't work.

"Michael Jackson started begging. He couldn't understand why he wasn't sleeping.... When Michael Jackson told Dr. Murray 'I have to sleep. They will cancel my performance,' he meant it," Chernoff said.

Murray, in a recording of his interview with police detectives, acknowledged that he relented and agreed to give Jackson a small dose of propofol.

Walgren said Murray's claim that he gave the singer a minuscule dosage, enough to keep him asleep perhaps five minutes, was not true. He also accused Murray of deception when he hid from paramedics and hospital emergency staff that he had given Jackson propofol. He said they were desperately trying to revive him but didn't know about the drug.

He returned repeatedly to the fee Murray was to be paid — $150,000 a month — and pointed out that he first had asked for $5 million.

"There was no doctor-patient relationship," Walgren said. "... What existed here was an employer-employee relationship. He was not working for the health of Michael Jackson. Dr. Murray was working for a fee of $150,000."

Chernoff countered with a description of Murray's history of treating indigent patients for free. At times during the defense attorney's opening statements, Murray appeared to be crying and wiped his eyes with a tissue.

Jackson's family members appeared pained as Walgren described the singer as a vulnerable figure, left alone with drugs coursing through his body.

"It violates not only the standard of care but the decency of one human being to another," he said. "Dr. Murray abandoned Michael when he needed help."

Video: Reporter: Jackson’s ghost will haunt trial (on this page)

Following opening statements, Jackson's choreographer and friend, Kenny Ortega, testified that Jackson was in bad shape physically and mentally less than a week before his death.

He said he sent a message to Randy Phillips, producer of the "This Is It" concert, telling him that Jackson was ill, probably should have a psychological evaluation and was not ready to perform.

"It's important for everyone to know he really wants this," he wrote. "It would shatter him, break his heart if we pulled the plug. He's terribly frightened it's all going to go away."

In response to the email, Ortega said, a meeting was called at Jackson's house where Ortega clashed with Murray, who told him to stop playing amateur psychiatrist and doctor.

"He said Michael was physically and emotionally capable of handling all his responsibilities for the show,'" said Ortega, "I was shocked. Michael didn't seem to be physically or emotionally stable."

Within a few days, he said, Jackson had recouped his energy and was full of enthusiasm for the show.

During the defense opening statement, Chernoff referred to Dr. Arnold Klein, Jackson's dermatologist, who the judge decided will not testify.

The attorney tried to blame Klein for some of Jackson's woes, saying Klein gave Jackson the painkiller Demerol and he became addicted to it.

Slideshow: Michael Jackson’s life and career (on this page)

He told jurors that Klein would not be testifying but his records would be available and an addiction specialist would testify that one of the side effects of Demerol withdrawal is trouble sleeping. Chernoff said Murray was unaware of a Demerol shot administered to Jackson on June 16 and thus didn't realize there could be a fatal interaction with propofol.

Klein's attorney, Garo Ghazarian, later in the day issued a statement calling the allegations preposterous and "merely an attempt to whitewash the facts surrounding the death of ... Michael Jackson while under the management of Dr. Conrad Murray."

He noted there were no traces of Demerol in Jackson's autopsy or in his home, indicating he was not addicted. He also said Klein's use of the drug was not excessive. He noted that Klein was cleared by authorities of any wrongdoing in Jackson's death.

Dr. Conrad Murray could lose his medical license and get four years in prison if found guilty. Do you think that's fair? Discuss on Facebook. You can also follow our updates from the trial on Twitter @TODAY_ent.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Michael Jackson’s life and career

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  1. Little boy Michael

    Jackson was just 12 when this picture was taken in May 1971, but his career was already stratospheric. Berry Gordy had signed the Jackson 5 to Motown Records in 1968, and Michael and his brothers had already topped the charts with "ABC" and "I'll Be There." It was a bright start for the boy from Gary, Ind. (Henry Diltz / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Signs of success

    Michael Jackson, far left, and the rest of the Jackson Five; the five brothers from Indiana were signed to Berry Gordy's Motown record label pose in 1972. (Frank Barratt / Getty Images file) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. All in the family

    The Jackson 5 performs in Los Angeles on a 1970s Bob Hope TV special. Michael continued to front the band, but his solo career was already on the rise, starting with 1971's "Got to Be There." (Neal Preston / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A wonderful Wiz

    Michael Jackson at the opening of "The Wiz." The 1978 movie musical was the first time Michael worked with legendary producer Quincy Jones, who would soon produce Jackson's breakout solo album, "Off the Wall," and eventually the "Thriller" album as well. Jackson's "Wiz" co-star was friend and mentor Diana Ross, who had introduced the world to the Jackson 5 back in 1969. (Bettmann / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Wanna be startin' somethin'?

    Michael Jackson performs in concert during a 1981 tour with his brothers. During the tour Michael began writing down ideas for a solo project that blossomed into the highest-selling album of all time. (Susan Phillips / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Michael Jackson and Diana Ross hold their American Music Awards in L.A. Jackson won for favorite soul album and Ross won for favorite female soul vocalist. (Juynh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Fright night

    Michael Jackson stands with a group of dancers dressed as zombies while filming his 1983 video "Thriller." "Thriller" was revolutionary in the music industry. The zombie-themed minimovie put MTV on the map and essentially confirmed music videos as an art form of their own. The album sold 25 million copies in the United States alone. (Corbis / Sygma) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Moment of stardom

    Michael Jackson performs the moonwalk for the first time on television's "Motown 25," a tribute to Berry Gordy. The dance move that would become Michael's trademark stunned viewers and the crowd, and marked his imminent crowning as the King of Pop. (Bettmann / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Handfuls of glory

    With Quincy Jones at his side, Michael Jackson holds six of the eight awards he won for "Thriller" at the 1984 Grammy Awards. His outfit, complete with epaulettes, sequined glove and dark shades, became a quintessential Michael look. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Role model

    During a May 1984 ceremony at the White House, Michael Jackson accepts a Presidential Award from President Reagan as First Lady Nancy Reagan looks on. Jackson was honored as a model for American youth, and for lending his hit song "Beat It" to a new campaign against drunk driving. (Bettmann / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A scary day

    Michael Jackson, background, is seen with his hair on fire during a taping of a Pepsi TV commercial in Los Angeles on February 1984 as brother Jermaine Jackson, foreground, continues to perform, apparently unaware of the situation. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. LONDON-1985: Michael Jackson is lead through a crowd by policeman on a promotionial tour of Great Britain in London.(Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)UK NEWSPAPERS OUT WITHOUT PRIOR CONSENT FROM DAVE HOGAN. PLEASE CONTACT SALES TEAM WITH ENQUIRIES (Dave Hogan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. They were the world

    In January 1985, a who's-who of the music and movie worlds came together to sing "We Are The World," written to benefit famine victims in Ethiopia. Michael Jackson can be seen front and center, along with Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor, and dozens of other stars. Michael's sister Janet can be seen bottom right. (Bettmann / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Victory lap

    Guitarist Eddie Van Halen, left, makes a July 1984 guest appearance during Michael Jackson's Victory Tour concert in Irving, Texas. Van Halen had recorded the now immortal guitar riff on "Beat It," to the displeasure of bandmate David Lee Roth, but to the delight of nearly everyone else. (Carlos Osorio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Who's bad?

    Michael Jackson and his dancers in concert during a 1987 Tokyo concert on Jackson's "Bad" tour. The previous year, he had starred in the 3-D film "Captain EO," one of the most expensive short films ever. But Jackson had begun to draw more criticism as his albums and videos grew costlier and more infrequent. His next album, "Dangerous," wouldn't arrive until 1991. (Neal Preston / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A difficult year

    A cameraman photographs Michael Jackson and Oprah Winfrey in January 1993. This was the year Jackson was first accused of child molestation, and he took an opportunity on a 90-minute Oprah TV special to address the charges. The criminal allegations eventually were dropped, but Jackson reportedly paid as much as $25 million to settle the claims. (Neal Preston / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Black and white at the Super Bowl

    Michael Jackson gives a performance with 30,000 children during the Super Bowl XXVIII halftime show, on January 31, 1993, in Pasadena, Calif. Despite allegations against him, Jackson's career had regained momentum with hits like "Black or White" and "Remember the Time," and the "Dangerous" album was a multi-platinum seller. (Ralf-Finn Hestoft / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Michael Jackson and French mime Marcel Marceau clowning for the cameras at the Beacon Theatre in New York on Dec. 4, 1995. (Bob Strong / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Power marriage

    Michael Jackson and his wife Lisa Marie Presley are seen at Neverland Ranch in preparation of the Children's World Summit in April 1995. Presley would file for divorce less than a year later, prompting speculation about just what had inspired the relationship. (Steve Starr / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Golden man

    Michael Jackson performs on stage during is "HIStory" world tour concert at Ericsson Stadium in November 1996 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Phil Walter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Marriage 2.0

    Just months after his divorce from Lisa Marie, Michael Jackson walked back up the aisle with Debbie Rowe. This wedding photo was released by Jackson's publicist minutes after the Nov. 13, 1996, ceremony in Sydney, Australia. But the pairing was less about romance and more about bearing Jackson a child, and the two would divorce three years later, with Rowe eventually ceding parental rights to Jackson. (Reuters / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Best of friends

    Michael Jackson and actress Elizabeth Taylor arrive at a Sept. 7, 2001, concert celebrating the 30 years of Jackson's career. The two stars had been longtime friends, and Taylor is godmother to two of Michael's children. (Jeff Christensen / Reuters / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. (FILES) Photo dated November 13, 2002 shows US entertainer Michael Jackson testifying in Santa Maria, Calif. Superior Court in a trial in which he is accused of cancelling concert appearances, costing the promoter several million dollars. (- / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Not so invincible

    Michael Jackson poses for photographers during a Nov. 2001 appearance in New York's Times Square. Jackson made his first ever in-store appearance to promote his new album, "Invincible," which was released Oct. 30. "Invincible," at the time the most expensive album ever produced, fared better with critics and fans than 1995's "HIStory," but questions began to surface about the future of Jackson's career. (Brad Rickerby / Reuters/Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. One big mistake

    Michael Jackson holds a towel-covered Prince Michael II over the balcony of a Berlin hotel on Nov. 19 2002. Jackson later called the incident a "terrible mistake," but the image of him dangling his baby son out a window shocked even many die-hard fans. And his reputation was to receive far worse damage just a few months later. (Tobias Schwarz / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Arresting development

    Michael Jackson is pictured in this Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department mug shot from Nov. 20, 2003. In a February 2003 documentary, Jackson acknowledged letting boys sleep in his bed. Soon after, Santa Barbara district attorney Tom Sneddon launched a probe into allegations that Jackson had molested a teen boy who appeared in the program. Authorities raided Neverland Ranch in November, and Jackson surrended for arrest days later. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff's D / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Family support

    Michael, center, and sisters LaToya, left and Janet Jackson walk over to greets fans during a lunch break at a pretrial hearing in Santa Maria, Calif. in this Aug. 16, 2004 file photo. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. MJ's PJs

    Michael Jackson wears pajama pants and is aided by bodyguards after arriving more than an hour late to court on Mar. 10, 2005, during his trial on the 2003 molestation charges. Jackson appeared after Judge Rodney Melville threatened to revoke his bail. (Kimberly White / pool via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Singin' with the kids

    Michael Jackson sings with some of his young fans at the World Music Awards at Earls Court in London on Nov. 16, 2006. (Graham Jepson / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Fans in uniform

    Michael Jackson receives a letter of appreciation from Col. Robert M. Waltemeyer, the garrison commander of Camp Zama, on March 10, 2007 in Zama, Japan. Michael greeted thousands of U.S. troops and their family members at the U.S. Army base. (U.S. Army via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Father figure

    Michael Jackson walks with kids Prince and Paris through a studio parking lot in Los Angeles in March 2009. The singer had been spotted with his entourage going to a studio on a cold rainy day in the city. The pop star stayed at the studio for more than two hours, and there were many production people working around him, suggesting that the star was filming. (Splash News / Splash News) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Concert tour planned

    Fans take pictures of an electronic screen projecting a press conference by Michael Jackson at the O2 arena in London on March 5, 2009. The pop megastar announced he would play a series of comeback concerts in London in July, his first major shows in more than a decade. (Ben Stansall / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Reaching for redemption

    Jackson, center, is shown in Los Angeles on May 6 during rehearsals for his planned concert tour in London. "He was on the eve of potentially redeeming his career a little bit," said Billboard magazine editorial director Bill Werde. "People might have started to think of him again in a different light."

    Discuss the life and impact of Michael Jackson in PhotoBlog. (Courtesy of Michael Jackson via) Back to slideshow navigation
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