herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

Trial hears Jacko's voice from beyond the grave as doctor denies killing

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

Slow and slurred, his words echoed yesterday 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, 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.'"



Neglect

Prosecutors played the audio for the first time as they portrayed Dr Conrad Murray as an incompetent physician who used a dangerous anaesthetic without adequate safeguards and whose neglect left the star abandoned as he lay dying.

Defence lawyers 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, Ed Chernoff, defending, 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 court, including his father Joseph, mother Katherine, sisters LaToya and Janet, and brothers Jermaine, Randy and Tito. LaToya carried a sunflower, her brother's favourite flower.

Murray, (58), 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 lose his medical licence.

Walgren showed a photo of a lifeless Jackson on a hospital trolley. 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.

The prosecutor said that Murray recorded the conversation on his cell phone.

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 anaesthetic, not a sleep aid, and the prosecutor said Murray severely misused it.

Chernoff claimed the singer swallowed several sedatives on the morning of his death. 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 defence 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.

On June 25, 2009, the last day of Jackson's life, Chernoff said, he was in the third day of a process of weaning Jackson off propofol 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.

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

The case continues.

hnews@herald.ie

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