In death, as in life, Michael Jackson remains a curiosity, shimmering, shining and demanding center stage. This time, he’s moonwalking with his panther-like elegance into the involuntary manslaughter trial of his doctor, Conrad Murray.
Prosecutors allege that Murray’s “negligent and reckless acts” may have contributed to or caused Jackson’s premature demise. The trial is supposed to be about the criminal liability of Murray, a cardiologist and veteran medical professional.
But it’s really about the King of Pop.
In homicide cases, the victim is no longer around to set the record straight, and third parties are left to decipher what led to an untimely death. A victim who has already suffered the ultimate loss, forfeiture of his or her life, may posthumously suffer public humiliation as the defendant puts up a zealous defense.
Ed Chernoff, Murray’s attorney, needs to establish reasonable doubt. That means scrutinizing, dissecting and impugning the King of Pop.
A few days into the trial, Jackson is still as provocative as his high- voltage performances. Photos of his limp, pale body, as milky white as the propofol (introvenous anesthesia) that allegedly took his life, surfaced during opening arguments. We learned that Jackson called the anesthetic, his milk. His chef and security staff testified that condom catheters were attached to Jackson’s penis to collect urine. And there has been poignant testimony about his inconsolable children being rushed from the death scene of Jackson’s cathetered body.
Jackson was so self-conscious about his physical appearance that he radically transformed himself through surgeons’ scalpels. Now, he is laid bare to the jury and the world. Jurors are likely to see nude autopsy photos, with only Jackson’s genitals covered. It is a well-established legal principle that the dead have no privacy rights.
Chernoff argued during opening statements that Jackson killed himself. He is trying to save his client from a possible four years in prison if convicted. Sadly, that means that the painfully private Michael Jackson—once Murray’s friend and generous employer—will have every intimate detail of his life detailed.
On center stage, as always.
Joy Freeman-Coulbary, a native Washingtonian, is a civil rights attorney. You can reach her at email@example.com and follow her on twitter @enJOYJFC.