How Will Blaming Michael Jackson Play to Jury?

PHOTO: Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson are seen in this file photo.
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By now it's clear that the attorneys representing Conrad Murray in the Michael Jackson death trial are pointing blame at the only other person in the room that night -- the singer himself.

In his opening statement, Murray's attorney Ed Chernoff told the court that the doctor isn't to blame for Jackson's death. It was Jackson who gave himself a lethal dose of drugs.

"While Michael Jackson was frustrated because he could not sleep, frustrated because his doctor refused to give him a drug that he preferred, that he wanted, he did an act without his doctor's knowledge, without his doctor's permission," Chernoff said.

The defense is claiming that Jackson took a sedative and then a final dose of the powerful anesthetic propofol without his doctor's knowledge. The sedative lorazepam coupled with the propofol created a "perfect storm in his body that killed him instantly," Chernoff said.

Since the singer isn't there to rebut Chernoff's claims, it will be up to a jury to decide who is really at fault in Jackson's death and if Murray should be convicted of manslaughter.

Legal expert Dana Cole called it the "correct strategy" for the defense to paint Jackson as "being a drug addict and crazed."

"The tape the prosecution played does help the defense," Cole said, referring to a recorded conversation with Jackson in which the drugged-up singer slurred his words so badly prosecutors had to run captions on the screen so jurors could understand what he was saying.

Michael Jackson's Drugged Phone Call

"It shows what a flawed individual he was and how he desperately sought drugs, that he was so addicted that he could have injected himself," Cole said. "I don't see anything wrong with that strategy."

Even when it's the King of Pop?

"A lot of people say he's on a pedestal and you have to be careful about his memory," Cole said, "but then a lot of the public thought he very strange and weird."

Similar defenses have been mounted with varying degrees of success. In fact, attorney Ellyn Garofalo, who represented physician Sandeep Kapoor in the Anna Nicole Smith drug case, said most often they are not successful.

"In our case it was, though we didn't blame her," said Garofalo, who won an acquittal for her client. "We said that he couldn't know if she was seeing other doctors. He acted in good faith. And it worked for us."

Garofalo said a key factor in Kapoor's acquittal was that he took over the practice from her previous doctor and kept her on the same prescription regimen she'd been on for years. "There was no evidence he was pumping her up," Garofalo said. "Apparently, the jury agreed."

But legal experts say Murray's situation presents some unique circumstances.

"He was on site administering drugs to someone," Garofalo said. "He left him in a room filled with drugs to make a phone call. That's like leaving a child in a room with matches."

Then there's the matter of the drug he was providing, propofol.

"You really should not be giving propofol outside of a hospital setting," Cole said. "This will be very difficult for the defense regardless of their strategy."

Blaming the victim can also backfire, as it did in the case of Atlanta doctor Noel Chua, who recently lost his appeal with the Georgia Supreme Court.

Chua is serving a life sentence for murder for prescriptions he wrote to 19-year-old college student Jamie Carter, who died of a drug overdose.

Donald Samuel, who represented Chua, said, in rejecting the appeal, the state Supreme Court pointed out that the doctor knew Carter was getting drugs from other places and, thus, should not have been providing him with more.

"That's part of the problem, it's not necessarily a defense," Samuel said.

But Samuel said the biggest factor in losing the case was that Carter was living with Chua and most likely involved in a sexual relationship with him, and it is against state law for doctors to prescribe drugs to someone with whom they have a domestic relationship.

"It's always a roll of the dice in a trial," Garofalo said. "The argument that he is an addict cuts both ways for the defense and the prosecution."

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