LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The trial of the doctor accused of responsibility for the June 2009 death of pop star Michael Jackson ended its first week, after an emotional start covered on television and making headlines worldwide.
Dr. Conrad Murray denies a charge of involuntary manslaughter against him in the death of the “Thriller” singer through an overdose of the anesthetic propofol and prescription drugs.
Reuters spoke to trial watchers Marcellus McRae, former federal prosecutor; Mark Geragos, Los Angeles defense attorney who once represented Jackson; and Steve Kron, Los Angeles defense attorney, for their views on the early trial winners and losers. Below is a summary of their opinions:
The trial has presented conflicting final images of the pop star lying dead, slurring speech in a voicemail, singing his classic hits in rehearsal video, then hooked up to an IV and urine collection device. His public image has long been mixed: famed singing star who was acquitted of child molestation charges. Has his image been damaged?
Geragos: “Michael had become such a caricature, and unfairly so, in the last 10 years, I don’t think it harms him.”
Kron: “Anyone looking at this rationally would have to say this is a picture of a guy who was on highs and lows and extremes of behavior and, if not addicted, then heavily dependent on drugs.”
McRae: “All these idiosyncrasies spell one thing, which is vulnerability. Jackson is taken out of his iconic status and humanized as a person.”
The cardiologist appeared sympathetic at times. He wiped away tears in court. His supporters gathered outside, arrived holding hands with his mother, and was credited by one witness, a former patient, as having saved his life. But the circumstantial evidence against him was damaging. Keep in mind that prosecutors present their case first. Defense is second.
Kron: “The former patient who said Murray was a great doctor and did a terrific job could have been a witness for the defense. Why the prosecution brought that in baffles me.”
McRae: “Murray is in a really tough spot. If he shows too much emotion, it may show contrition, and that may suggest culpability. If he shows no emotion what does that say? A failure to acknowledge the human tragedy.”
Prosecutors present their side of the case first, using slick video screen presentations, slides, photos.
Geragos: “The prosecution has come out strong. There have been some great visuals and audio so far.”
McRae: “The prosecution is doing an effective job in focusing the case on trust and the duty of care of a doctor.”
The defense team, which has not yet presented its case, has only cross-examined witnesses in bid to draw out inconsistencies. On Friday the judge imposed a gag order on attorneys after one defense counselor gave a TV interview. He could be held in contempt.
McRae: “It’s been a difficult week for the defense (and their basic argument) that if it is not Murray, then it is Jackson. The defense won’t be able to put Jackson’s personality, or character, or all of his actions on trial.”
Geragos: “The defense opening statement was compelling. Some of the cross examination has been effective.”
Parents Joe and Katherine Jackson, sisters Janet and La Toya, and brother Randy have attended each day in a display of unity among the sometimes fractious Jackson clan. Court watchers heard how Jackson’s young children, Paris and Prince, both witnessed their father lifeless in bed -- adding to the emotional tug favoring the family of the King of Pop.
McRae: “You not only have visual of the children mourning the loss of father, but the family in court on a daily basis reinforces that they are still grieving and that (Jackson’s death) cries out for some measure of accountability.”
Kron: “The jury might be dazzled a little bit by the star power, but after a while the impact they may have will be minimal.”
Geragos: “I think it is very important to the jury to see they are there in support of their deceased brother and son.”
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Philip Barbara