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TODAY   |  September 28, 2011

Chilling audio, photos at trial of Jackson’s doctor

The manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray, opened Tuesday with a chilling recording of the singer made just weeks before his death. NBC’s Jeff Rossen reports. Editor’s note: This video contains images and audio revealed at the trial, which may be disturbing to some viewers.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the stuns first day of court in the trial of michael jackson 's doctor. jeff rossen is outside the courthouse.

>> reporter: good morning to you. prosecutors wasted no time. in minutes of opening statements the prosecutors dropped a new photo of michael jackson we've never seen before and then an audio recording played for the jury in open court of michael jackson , like we've never heard him before. with a deep voice, incoherent. even by hollywood standards, complete with a specticle outside, the shocker in court came early.

>> the evidence in this case will show that michael jackson literally put his life in the hands of conrad murray . conrad murray repeatedly acted with gross negligence .

>> reporter: and prosecutors brought visuals showing the jury the side by side photos, on the left, june 24th , michael jackson alert and dancing during rehearsal. on the right, just 12 hours later, michael 's lifeless body on a gurney at ucla medical center , a photo never made public, until now.

>> what happened during that time frame is that the acts and the omissions of michael jackson 's personal doctor, conrad murray , directly led to his premature death at the age of 50.

>> reporter: but the biggest surprise was yet to come. dr. murray had recorded michael jackson on his iphone, a month and a half before his death. why, why

>> reporter: on the tape you hear michael drugged up, prosecutors say and barely making sense, talking about his upcoming tour.

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

>> and what does he do with that knowledge? what does he do with that information? on may 12th , he orders another shipment of propofol .

>> this is one lethargic, barely able to compose a sentence, sounds completely loaded and the doctor is going to say i used good judgment in giving him propofol , hard to overcome.

>> strong for the prosecution.

>> best piece of evidence i've seen so far.

>> reporter: dr. murray is charged with involuntary manslaughter, facing four years in prison, accused of giving a lethal dose of propofol to michael and in court the jackson family came to see it all including mother katherine, jermaine, latoya and janet. dr. murray broke down in tears as his lawyer laid out their defense.

>> i'm not saying abandon your heart at the door, i'm saying listen to the science, and you will know the truth.

>> reporter: the defense, says murray , was trying to wean jackson off propofol but they say the morning of his death, jackson was begging for the drug and dr. murray reluctantly gave him a small dose but the real centerpiece of their argument is that michael jackson later gave himself a higher dose.

>> the scientific evidence will show you that when dr. murray left the room, michael jackson self-administered a dose of propofol that, with the lorazepam created a perfect storm in his body that killed him instantly.

>> reporter: in court tuesday, the first witness on the stand --

>> is in that light --

>> reporter: kenny ortega , director of the comeback tour who wrote an e-mail to the tour's promoter worried about michael 's health.

>> as far as i know there is no one taking responsibility caring for him on a daily basis.

>> reporter: prosecutors say the audiotape, michael 's only garbled words, proves it.

>> it's amazing, he's the greatest entertainer in the world.

>> reporter: by the way, latoya jackson was tweeting inside the courtroom and a couple of things she wrote "seeing his lifeless body laying there on the gurney is heartwrenching" and also "this is all a big conspiracy and the doctor knows exactly what happened." another big day here in court, michael jackson 's employees will be on the stand, including his personal assistant .

>> all right, jeff rossen thank you so much. samantha guthrie "today's" legal correspondent, star jones , former prosecutor and nancy , thank you for being here.

>> first of all what it stands for, here you hear michael jackson in that courtroom sounding so slurry, so intoxicated and two days later this doctor is purchasing massive quantities of propofol but opening statements are the chance for the prosecutor to make first impressions and introduce the characters in the trial. number one i thought the tape made michael jackson seem extremely sympathetic. it was heartbreaking. jackson comes with a lot of baggage with the allegations against him but this was a sympathetic figure we heard in the courtroom. number two if i am a juror i'm wondering what on earth that doctor was doing recording michael jackson in this state.

>> that's more interesting for the prosecution. what can the prosecution make of the fact that it was the doctor who is the source of this tape, star?

>> dr. murray appears to want to protect himself before he basically even begins treating michael jackson . he's acting as if he needs to stave off liability later on.

>> that's a charitable interpretation.

>> i'm being kind about that. if he also wants to have some blackmail ability for michael jackson later on, it's on the opposite end so there are some nefarious reasons he could have taped his patient, none of them i could come up with is a good reason.

>> and the defense didn't explain it, didn't try to explain it.

>> we'll find out what happens in the course of the trial. nancy , what should it have told dr. murray ?

>> that's not propofol slurring. it washes out of the body one to three minutes and it's the kind of medication that has to drip slowly. if you push it through a syringe, that's when you can really put someone in harm's way. so this sounds to me like an anti-anxiety drug or a valium kind of drug, and probably multiple pills, to allow him to cohesively think of what he wants to say but not be able to execute the language.

>> okay, that said now, the crux of this case seems to somewhat be on whether or not michael jackson could have self-administered propofol , because it is, seems pretty clear that he was alreadyez these anti-anxiety drugs, including lorazepam. if you're on this kind of drug is it even possible?

>> any good junky can tell you you can shoot up if you know how but propofol requires an iv, some sort of catheter. the question would be why would he have an iv in, why was his medication given at 9:15 in the morning, which is not a normal time people sleep, even though michael jackson was a night owl . they'll have to demonstrate how you would self-administer propofol which is not something that the average person would be able to do.

>> yes or no, dr. conrad murray was incompetent?

>> he's incompetent for one huge reason, while giving propofol he left the patient's bedside and when the patient arrested did not put that body on a hard surface and could do a thorough cpr. from those two points absolutely incompetence.

>> does it prove involuntary manslaughter with i erer which is recklessness and negligence? savannah?

>> the standard is a gross deviation from care. it's criminal negligence , it's not just malpractice. certainly incompetence would qualify but of course prosecutors are alleging something more. prosecutors laid out 11 different ways this doctor deviated from the standard of care that any reasonable doctor would have given. some might make the argument giving propofol at all outside a hospital context which dr. murray has already acknowledged amounts to the recklessness.

>> it's not a sleep aid . it's not for sleep.

>> without life saving equipment, without an assistant there to help administer it, propofol is what they use to take out your heart, and i know that from experience.

>> it's a great outpatient drug. it's not a sleep medication.

>> the defense was saying that michael jackson died so fast, he could not have saved him, that he didn't have time to close his eyes.

>> that's going to be a battle of the experts. the prosecution's experts are going to say with life-saving equipment, there was a?? chance that he could have been saved.

>> he may have died so fast but the question is could they have prevented the death and?? i think that's the bigger question.

>> nancy , star, savannah, to be continued, thank you so much.