Video would show Michael Jackson's ill health, defense lawyers argue
"It didn't just develop the last few days before he died," Murray lawyer Michael Flanagan says
Prosecutors can't tell jury about unsuccessful efforts to talk to Dr. Conrad Murray, judge rules
Murray's trial in Michael Jackson's death starts Tuesday morning
Although the judge has limited what Dr. Conrad Murray’s lawyers can argue about Michael Jackson’s health and state of mind in the months before his death, the defense will “put on a good case,” one of Murray’s lawyers said Monday.
Jurors will hear opening statements and the first witnesses Tuesday in the trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the pop icon’s death.
Murray’s lawyers will not be allowed to show video of Jackson’s March 2009 announcement of his “This Is It” concerts in London, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor ruled Monday.
The video would show jurors’ “Michael Jackson’s state of mind and demeanor” and support the testimony by his makeup artist that Jackson was furious the number of scheduled shows was increased from the initial 10 to 50, defense lawyer Nareg Gourjian told the judge.
The London announcement was delayed 90 minutes “because Michael Jackson was passed out and could not get off the sofa,” Gourjian said.
Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney David Walgren objected to the video, arguing that evidence about Jackson’s mental and physical condition four months before his June 25, 2009, death is not relevant.
Defense lawyer Michael Flanagan, talking to reporters after the hearing, said prosecution and defense witnesses will testify about Jackson’s failing health for several months before his death.
“It didn’t just develop the last few days before he died,” Flanagan said.
The defense argued the March video would have helped jurors see Jackson’s ill health for themselves.
Pastor agreed with the prosecution and denied the defense request to use the video in the trial.
“We’ve got witnesses that saw what we’re trying to prove,” Flanagan said. “We would like to have a recording of exactly what was going on.”
The first prosecution witness Tuesday is expected to be Kenny Ortega, who was the producer of Jackson’s “This Is It” shows. Flanagan suggested he would offer evidence of Jackson’s ill health when cross-examined by defense lawyers.
The judge’s rejection of the defense request, along with earlier rulings limiting what Murray’s attorneys could present in their defense, are just a fact they have to deal with, he said.
“I don’t think anybody’s putting on exactly the case they want to present,” Flanagan said. “There are rules of evidence we have to comply with. We’re going to do the best we can with the rules that are put down on us, and we’ll put on a good case.”
Pastor denied the prosecution’s request Monday to tell jurors about investigators’ failed efforts to re-interview Murray in the weeks after Jackson’s death. He did meet with them two days after Jackson’s death, but the prosecution wanted to show later e-mail and phone voice mail attempts by the county coroner and a police detective to request meetings with Murray.
Pastor ruled that there were “too many variables in phone calls that are being placed” and the efforts to re-interview Murray were not face-to-face communications.
The judge indicated he may rethink that decision if the defense argues during the trial that police did not do a thorough investigation of Jackson’s death.
“Dr. Murray gave a full statement to police, stayed there for two and a half hours, answered every question they asked,” Flanagan said. “What’s he supposed to do – that on a daily basis?”
Twelve jurors and five alternates will report to court Tuesday morning to hear opening statements in the case against Murray. A sixth alternate juror was dismissed just minutes after she was sworn in Friday.
“It seems like a good jury panel,” Flanagan said after the jury was seated Friday.
The jury consists of seven men and five women, including six who are white, five who listed their ethnicity as Mexican or Hispanic and one who identified himself as African-American.
Flanagan said the defense paid little attention to jurors’ ethnicity, but instead focused on their answers to the 32-page jury questionnaire.
The court released copies of their answers late Friday, giving a glimpse at the 12 Los Angeles County residents who will decide Murray’s fate.
Three of the women said they followed the Casey Anthony trial over the summer. Defense lawyers unsuccessfully used the Anthony case to argue that Murray jurors should be sequestered in a hotel during the trial to shelter them from media reports.
One juror, a retired cartoon animator, said he once met Michael Jackson.
Several jurors described themselves as Jackson fans and two have seen “This Is It,” the documentary of Jackson’s rehearsals just before his death.
They and their fellow jurors will see clips from the film again since the prosecution is expected to show them during the first day of the trial Tuesday.
Murray could face up to four years in prison if the jury finds him guilty.
The Los Angeles coroner has ruled that Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009, was caused by an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol combined with other drugs.
Prosecutors have accused Murray, who served as Jackson’s personal and full-time physician at the time, of having a role in the overdose.
They contend Murray used a makeshift intravenous drip to administer propofol intended to help Jackson sleep, a practice they argue violated the standard of care and led to the pop music icon’s death.