The trial of Michael Jackson's personal physician will include two haunting but starkly different depictions of the pop star's last day — a video of him dancing and singing on stage and photos taken hours later of his lifeless body on a coroner's gurney, a judge ruled Thursday.
L.A. County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor cleared prosecutors to present the rehearsal footage and autopsy photos during a lengthy hearing that established evidentiary boundaries for next month's involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray.
The judge barred both sides from delving far into the personal lives of the physician and his famous patient, saying he wanted to focus the proceeding tightly on Murray's medical care of Jackson in the months leading up to his 2009 death.
Jurors, Pastor said, will hear nothing about Murray's extramarital affairs, out-of-wedlock children, and his visits to strip clubs, evidence prosecutors had hoped to present. Nor, he said, will they hear evidence the defense had sought concerning Jackson's crushing debt and mountain of pending lawsuits.
The ruling on Jackson's money woes was a particularly difficult blow for Murray, whose lawyers had said their case hinged on linking the singer's desperate financial straits to their contention that he self-administered a fatal dose of propofol. In comments in court, defense lawyer Ed Chernoff indicated that he planned to argue that Jackson took the drug for insomnia so he could be ready for rehearsals in a comeback concert series that was to end his money problems.
But Pastor called Jackson's debt irrelevant and said testimony from a financial analyst retained by the defense would make for "a battle of accountants" and "turn what should be a focused trial involving a charge of involuntary manslaughter into a salacious analysis of personal financial issues."
The judge went on to say, "We simply are not going there."
The defense also lost a fight to prohibit the use of the autopsy photos and the video clips of a rehearsal that were taken from the posthumous Jackson documentary "This Is It." Defense lawyer Nareg Gourjian said the clips were "sliced and diced" by moviemakers to give a false impression of Jackson's abilities and health, but Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren said videos were "most probative as to Michael Jackson's mental and physical well-being and optimism for the future."
Murray, 58, faces a maximum of four years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty.