Grim photos of Michael Jackson lying dead in a hospital bed juxtaposed with a picture of the Thriller singer rehearsing the day before his demise brought an emotional opening on Tuesday to the manslaughter trial of the doctor hired to care for him.
In opening arguments two years after Jackson's sudden death by drug overdose, prosecutor David Walgren told jurors that the pop star literally put his life in the hands of Dr. Conrad Murray.
That misplaced trust in the hands of Conrad Murray cost Michael Jackson his life, Walgren added.
But Murray's lawyers argued that Jackson caused his own death by giving himself extra medication. He died so rapidly, so instantly, he didn't even have time to close his eyes, defense attorney Ed Chernoff said in opening arguments.
Murray has pleaded not guilty to the involuntary manslaughter of Jackson on June 25, 2009, but faces a prison sentence of up to four years if jurors find he is ultimately responsible for the pop star's death due to inadequate care. The trial is expected to last four to six weeks.
The Texas cardiologist, who was getting $150,000 a month to care for Jackson, wiped away tears during Tuesday's opening statements as attorney Chernoff defended him.
Jackson's lifeless body was found at his rented Los Angeles mansion just three weeks before a series of 50 planned London comeback concerts titled This Is It were scheduled to begin.
Murray has admitted giving the 50 year-old pop star a dose of the powerful anesthetic propofol as a sleeping aid while he rehearsed for the shows. But Chernoff told jurors Murray was trying to wean the pop star off his addiction to the drug, which Jackson called his milk.
Tired, weary of rehearsing, and under pressure to get the concerts ready, a frustrated Jackson gave himself eight lorazepam anti-anxiety pills in a bid to sleep in the early hours of June 25, 2009, Chernoff said.
We believe the evidence will show. ... that when Dr. Murray left the room, Michael Jackson self-administered a dose of propofol that with the lorazepam created a perfect storm within his body that killed him instantly, Chernoff added.
Jackson's parents, Joe and Katherine, his sisters, Janet and La Toya, and other family members were in court on Tuesday, while outside dozens of fans outside the courtroom held sunflowers, pictures of the dead pop star, and placards saying Justice for Michael.
Walgren opened the prosecution case by showing jurors a photo of a thin Jackson lying dead on a hospital gurney, side by side with a picture of him singing and dancing while rehearsing for the concerts one day before. Footage of the rehearsals were made into Jackson's posthumous concert movie This Is It in 2009, that became a global box office hit.
But Chernoff painted a different scenario, claiming that Jackson was under huge pressure to make the concerts -- his first in 10 years -- a success, not just financially but also to restore his image after his damaging 2005 trial and acquittal for child molestation.
Jurors are expected to hear testimony from the paramedics who transported Jackson to the hospital, medical experts, Jackson's choreographer and Murray's girlfriends.
The first prosecution witness is expected to be Kenny Ortega, the choreographer and film director who was hired to stage the London shows and who was conducting rehearsals with Jackson in Los Angeles.