TODAY   |  September 28, 2011

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

MSNBC’s Martin Bashir and pop culture expert Lola Ogunnaike join TODAY’s Matt Lauer to discuss the public’s fascination with the trial that has garnered enormous media attention. 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.

>>> 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,