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IMAGE: Dr. Conrad Murray
Robyn Beck  /  AP
Dr. Conrad Murray's defense attorneys will try to counter three weeks of damaging testimony this week.
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updated 10/17/2011 12:06:44 AM ET 2011-10-17T04:06:44

The trial of Michael Jackson's personal physician will enter a new phase this week, with the doctor's attorneys trying to counter three weeks of damaging testimony and attempting to show that the singer somehow caused his own death.

Lawyers for Dr. Conrad Murray have told jurors that the involuntary manslaughter case will hinge on the science of what killed Jackson in June 2009. They will call their own experts to counter prosecution witnesses who have repeatedly told the panel that Murray was reckless and beyond the fringes of medicine when he administered the anesthetic propofol to help Jackson sleep.

It was not clear when the defense would get to start its presentation. Monday's testimony was canceled because the government's final witness, Dr. Steven Shafer, will be unavailable. Court spokeswoman Mary Hearn said Sunday the trial's resumption would be announced when more information becomes available.

The Houston-based cardiologist has pleaded not guilty and his attorneys continue to maintain that Jackson somehow gave himself the fatal dose of medication. They have abandoned the theory that Jackson died after swallowing propofol, but now contend he was killed after taking several pills of the sedative lorazepam and possibly giving himself a shot of propofol after Murray left the singer's bedroom.

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Before the defense lays out its case — expected to consist of 15 witnesses and last until the end of the month — it will have to contend with Shafer. The Columbia University researcher and professor helped write the warnings and directions included with every vial of propofol — warnings a prosecutor said in opening statements that Murray ignored.

Defense attorney Nareg Gourjian declined to say Friday who Murray's team would call to testify, but told the judge they would include police officers, experts and some character witnesses. He was not asked, nor did he mention, whether Murray would testify in his own defense.

Story: Jackson trial focuses on singer's Demerol use

It seems unlikely that Murray will testify. Jurors have already heard his more-than-two-hour interview in which he laid out his version of events before Jackson's death to a detective who acknowledges he wasn't conducting an interrogation.

If Murray takes the stand, he would undoubtedly be asked by prosecutors about several unanswered questions, such as why he never told paramedics or ER doctors about giving Jackson propofol, why he never told police he was on the phone for long stretches of the morning Jackson died, and why he recorded the singer when he was impaired, stumbling his way through his plans for a children's hospital and cementing a legacy larger than those attained by Elvis Presley or The Beatles.

In his opening statement to jurors, lead defense attorney Ed Chernoff said Murray's team would try to answer two fundamental questions:

"First, how did Michael Jackson get to this point, this desperate point," Chernoff said. "And second, what happened when Dr. Murray was out of the room?"

Prosecution witnesses have acknowledged that only Jackson and Murray know what really happened, but two medical experts testified last week that Murray was grossly negligent. Even if Jackson somehow was able to give himself medication after Murray left the room, the doctor should have been closely monitoring the singer and should have never left any medications within arms' reach, the doctors said.

Ellyn Garofalo, who last year won an acquittal for one of Anna Nicole Smith's doctors charged with improperly prescribing pain medications, said Murray's team should focus on their expert testimony and not start calling character witnesses.

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

"If they start to call character witnesses, they don't have a great deal of faith in their defense," she said.

She said the experts should be able to show that the case isn't as simple as prosecutors have claimed, and that it is filled with "all kinds of shades of gray."

Murray's attorneys should also try to argue that prosecutors should not be second-guessing medical decisions. "Do we really want the DA's office making medical decisions for doctors," she asked.

Murray's case, she noted, differs in one major respect from the case against her client, who was never accused of causing Smith's death.

Garofalo said Murray's case will be harder to win, and prosecutors so far have done a solid job of showing that the doctor shouldn't have been giving Jackson propofol as a sleep aid in the superstar's bedroom.

Slideshow: Jackson's face changed over the years (on this page)

"It's a strong case because you have somebody dead after somebody did something that is unheard of," Garofalo said.

Murray's defense strategy also appears to involve calling hostile witnesses, including police officers who prosecutors did not call during their case. The defense scored some points early in the trial by getting a coroner's investigator to acknowledge that she moved some evidence around in Jackson's bedroom before photographing it and that she didn't keep all her notes. The officers would likely undergo the similar harsh questioning about their decisions.

They may also call doctors who previously treated Jackson but have never been formally accused of wrongdoing. They are barred from calling one doctor whose name has been repeatedly mentioned during the trial — Jackson's longtime dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein.

Murray's team may also call Jackson's hairdresser, Karen Faye, who they have said will testify that the singer was distraught at the prospect of performing 50 comeback concerts at London's O2 arena. Such an account would be in contrast with several other witnesses who said Jackson was excited about the concerts and that his three children would see him perform.

The trial, which is entering its fourth week, has moved rapidly, with 33 witnesses so far and both sides presenting more than 250 pieces of evidence. At its current pace, jurors should receive the case next week.

Is there anything Murray's lawyers could present that would make you believe he is innocent? Tell us on Facebook.

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

Video: Will defense put Michael Jackson on trial?

  1. Transcript of: Will defense put Michael Jackson on trial?

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: A big week is coming up in Los Angeles at the manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson 's personal physician. Dr. Conrad Murray 's defense is expected to take center stage and the question is, will Murray 's lawyers try to, in effect, put Jackson himself on trial? We get the story tonight from NBC 's George Lewis .

    GEORGE LEWIS reporting: The defense will try to show it was Michael Jackson acting on his own who took a lethal combination of drugs that quickly killed him, a theory that Murray 's lawyer laid out in his opening statement, blaming Jackson .

    Mr. ED CHERNOFF (Defense Attorney): He died so rapidly, so instantly, he didn't even have time to close his eyes.

    LEWIS: The defense contends that Jackson gave himself a mixture of the antidepressant lorazepam and the powerful anesthetic propofol that Murray told police he was using to treat Jackson 's insomnia. Legal experts say the defense has to tread lightly here in its depiction of Jackson , an iconic entertainment figure, as a drug addict . Thomas Mesereau defended Jackson at the singer's child molestation trial where Jackson was acquitted. The judge in the Murray case has ruled that subject off limits to the defense.

    Mr. THOMAS MESEREAU: They seem to be grasping for any possibility that might suggest that Dr. Murray is not a substantial factor in the death of Michael Jackson , and I don't think it's going to work.

    LEWIS: The prosecution has tried to show Jackson in a sympathetic light, playing a recording Murray made of the singer sounding heavily drugged, talking about children and the pain of his own youth.

    Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON: I love them because I didn't have a childhood. I had no childhood. I feel their pain. I feel their hurt.

    LEWIS: The defense will try to show that to ease his pain Jackson , and not Dr. Murray , administered the lethal drug overdose .

    Mr. MARK GERAGOS (Michael Jackson's Former Attorney): I don't think it's beyond the pale for this jury to come back and acquit Dr. Murray , given what has been produced so far.

    LEWIS: And as Murray 's lawyers go to bat, they'll hammer away at their contention that prosecutors did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Murray killed Michael Jackson . George Lewis , NBC

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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  1. Michael Jackson in a Butterfly Collar Shirt
    Henry Diltz / Corbis
    Above: Slideshow (33) Michael Jackson’s life and career
  2. MICHAEL JACKSON
    AP
    Slideshow (16) The face of change

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