Michael Jackson’s doctor had been trying to wean the singer off using a powerful sedative as his sleep-inducing agent, defence attorneys said in a Los Angeles court Tuesday, as the trial of Conrad Murray got underway.
Murray is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of Jackson, who at the time was in rehearsals for an upcoming series of concerts in London, England. If convicted, Murray faces up to four years in prison and the loss of his medical licence.
In his opening statement on Tuesday, defence attorney Edward Chernoff painted the King of Pop as a man fully aware and completely in charge of his life and forthcoming concert series — a faded pop icon desperate to achieve a massive comeback.
Chernoff said it was Jackson, anxious about the upcoming concerts, who proposed using the drug propofol to get some rest — a practice he had reportedly tested out on previous tours, the singer told Murray. Still, at the time of Jackson’s death, the doctor was attempting to wean him off propofol in hopes of treating the singer’s insomnia through other methods, the lawyer said.
He also emphasized Murray’s expertise as a cardiologist and said he would introduce witnesses who would testify to the physician’s good character and professionalism — contrary to the portrait the prosecution had painted earlier in the day of a doctor who violated “every standard of care.”
“You need to hear the full story about him,” Chernoff said, with Murray seen at times wiping his eyes with a tissue. According to defence attorneys, Jackson’s inability to sleep was a byproduct of his longtime use of other drugs, like the pain reliever Demerol.
It was the singer’s own decision to ingest a fatal mix of drugs (the anti-anxiety drug lorazepam as well as propofol) while Murray was absent from the room that caused a “perfect storm in his body” that led to the singer’s death on June 25, 2009, Chernoff said.