LOS ANGELES â€” As the trial of the Houston cardiologist accused of causing Michael Jacksonâ€™s death gets under way Tuesday, the doctorâ€™s attorneys are poised to argue the blame should be pointed at the other person who was in the room: the King of Pop himself.
Jackson may have injected the lethal dose, or consumed it, attorneys for Dr. Conrad Murray have suggested. It may have been out of financial desperation, pressure to perform or anxiety about his career comeback, theyâ€™ve said.
Blaming the patient for his or her own death, legal experts say, is a common defense in the small but growing number of cases of doctors charged in connection with overdose deaths, where a patientâ€™s desperate search for drugs collides with a physicianâ€™s responsibilities.
â€œThereâ€™s a fundamental human theme that occurs in all of these cases, that is how much the defense can paint the addict as this powerful driving force, in some sense bent on killing himself,â€ said Peter Arenella, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an expert in criminal procedure. â€œIf the jury starts viewing the victim in that light, itâ€™s easy for them to acquit the doctor of any serious criminal charge.â€
Murray, 58, faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter for injecting Jackson with the dangerous surgical anesthetic propofol at his rented Los Angeles mansion and leaving his bedside. Murray told police he gave Jackson the drug â€” the singer referred to it as â€œmilkâ€ â€” over two months to help him sleep, even though it has no established use for insomnia. If convicted, Murray faces a four-year sentence and likely loss of his license to practice medicine.
On Monday, on the eve of opening statements, Murrayâ€™s lead attorney asked the judge to admit another piece of evidence he said would help prove that â€œMichael Jackson was involved in certain acts that ended his own life.â€
â€œWe think that he was desperate at the time that he did that,â€ attorney Ed Chernoff told Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor, asking that Jacksonâ€™s contract with concert promoter Anschutz Entertainment Group be allowed at trial.