Michael Jackson's doctor Conrad Murray faces trial in LA on manslaughter charges
AMERICA’S keenly awaited trial into the death of Michael Jackson opens later today as his personal physician Dr Conrad Murray faces charges of involuntary manslaughter over the singer's death more than two years ago.
The case will be screened live on television and its every twist and turn will be followed by millions of the late entertainer's fans.
It will also be the first chance for Dr Murray to publicly give his account of the events leading to Jackson's death from a drug overdose on June 25, 2009 at the age of 50.
The case of the People v Conrad Robert Murray will take place at Los Angeles Superior Court and the eight-hour time difference means that European audiences will get coverage in the evenings.
The trial will be attended by members of the Jackson family, including his parents Katherine and Joe, along with an expected media circus.
In court lawyers, who will quickly become household names themselves, will focus on the role of the drug propofol, a powerful anaesthetic intended only for use in hospitals.
Evidence about Jackson's use of the drug is expected to dominate the trial.
The singer called it his "milk" and used it to relieve his insomnia.
Dr Murray, 58, a Houston cardiologist, had been hired by Jackson six weeks before his death, for $150,000 a month, to act as his personal doctor while he rehearsed for his 50-night "This Is It" comeback tour.
The prosecution will claim that Dr Murray was grossly negligent in giving Jackson propofol at home in Los Angeles without proper lifesaving equipment available, and that the doctor then left the room before returning to find his patient not breathing.
Defence lawyers will claim the singer, desperate for sleep, administered an additional dose of the drug himself when his doctor was out of the room.
Dr Murray has previously told police that he had been trying to wean Jackson off propofol and gave him only a minimal dosage, then left the room for five minutes to use the bathroom. However, mobile phone records suggest he was making phone calls for a longer time.
Evidence will be heard from an array of medical experts, pathologists, paramedics and police officers who were at the scene.
Dr Murray has pleaded not guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted he faces a maximum sentence of four years in jail.
Potential jurors went through an exhaustive process to ensure they would not be biased, which included answering more than 100 questions about their views on Jackson's music and the effectiveness of the justice system in prosecuting celebrity cases.
The panel of seven men and five women includes a postman and a television director. Half of those chosen have confirmed that they would consider themselves fans of the singer.
Mark Geragos, a former lawyer to Michael Jackson, said that could count in the defence's favour.
He said: "If the defence of this case is that he was trying to wean Michael Jackson off of these drugs, if that's the road they're going down, then they may want Michael Jackson fans."
Judge Michael Pastor, a veteran of cases involving celebrities, has ruled there will be no mention made of the entertainer's 2005 child molestation trial, when he was acquitted, or his financial situation at his death.