Doctor's trial may avoid Michael Jackson's past

Tue Sep 6, 2011 3:55pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Jackson's former doctor faces a tough challenge clearing himself of involuntary manslaughter charges in the pop star's death as his trial, which promises to avoid many dark aspects of Jackson's life, begins with jury selection due this week.

While it is Dr. Conrad Murray, who will be on trial when attorneys are expected to start selecting a panel on Thursday, the "Thriller" singer's infamy will loom large over the proceedings.

Jackson was one of the world's most recognizable singers, dubbed the King of Pop, when he died in June 2009, at age 50. He also was known to have battled an addiction to painkillers, and Murray's attorneys had hoped to present evidence of his past drug use at the trial.

But in an obstacle for the defense, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor barred testimony from a half-dozen doctors whom Murray's attorneys had indicated in court papers would portray Jackson as drug-dependent.

"The deck is, for various reasons, stacked against the defense here," said Stan Goldman, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Jackson stopped breathing at his Los Angeles mansion on June 25, 2009, in what authorities say was an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol and various sedatives.

Murray, who pleaded not guilty to the charge of involuntary manslaughter, has admitted giving Jackson propofol, a drug normally used for surgery, as a sleep aid.

During a series of court hearings earlier this year defense attorneys suggested that when Murray was out of the room, Jackson could have given himself a large, fatal dose of the drug, possibly by swallowing it.   Continued...