Closing arguments are set to begin Thursday as the involuntary manslaughter trial against Michael Jackson's doctor heads into its final stages before jury deliberations.
Before listening to arguments by prosecutors and defense attorneys, Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor will give jurors detailed instructions on how they should interpret evidence in the case and what they can and cannot consider.
There has been no time limit announced for how long each side will argue its position, although Pastor cautioned attorneys on Tuesday to keep their final speeches focused.
Deputy District Attorney David Walgren will have the first and last word during arguments as he tries to convince the jury of seven men and five women that Dr. Conrad Murray should be convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Walgren has cast Murray as an inept, reckless physician who was distracted on the morning of Jackson's June 2009 death after giving the singer a powerful dose of the anesthetic propofol as a sleep aid.
Prosecutors are operating on the theory that while Murray was engaged in lawful practices during his treatment of Jackson, he acted in a criminally negligent way by using propofol as an insomnia treatment without the proper staff or medical equipment, and that he botched resuscitation efforts and lied to other medical personnel about his actions.
The majority of the witnesses and evidence was presented by prosecutors, who must convince the jury unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict Murray.
Lead defense attorney Ed Chernoff is likely to argue that Jackson was responsible for his own death and took a fatal dose of propofol when Murray left his bedroom on June 25, 2009. Chernoff will also likely rely on the statements of five character witnesses, mostly former patients, to try to convince jurors that he should not be held responsible for Jackson's death.
After Walgren's final arguments, Pastor will offer some additional instructions and the jury's deliberations will begin.
The panel has listened attentively throughout the six-week trial, which featured 49 witnesses and some complex medical testimony. They also heard several audio recordings, including one of Jackson himself in which his speech was slow and slurred, as well as Murray's lengthy interview with police detectives.
It is unclear if any of those items will get a reprise during closing arguments, but Walgren told Pastor he is planning a slideshow presentation.
Murray, 58, has been stoic through most of the proceedings. He cried when one of his friends, Ruby Mosley, talked about the cardiologist founding a clinic in a poor Houston neighborhood in honor of his father.
The jury did not hear directly from Murray, who opted not to testify in his own defense.
The doctor faces up to four years behind bars and the loss of his medical license if he's convicted.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP.
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