- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 4, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Jackson was already dead when his physician summoned help, a prosecutor said Tuesday to open a preliminary hearing that will determine whether the doctor stands trial for involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutor David Walgren said evidence would show that Dr. Conrad Murray also tried to conceal his administering the powerful anesthetic propofol to the pop superstar, ordering a bodyguard to collect items before paramedics were called.

Jackson died in June 2009 and authorities contend Murray gave him a lethal dose of propofol and other sedatives in the bedroom of his rented mansion.

“The evidence will show through the expert testimony, by all accounts, Michael Jackson was dead in the bedroom at 100 North Carrolwood prior to the paramedics arriving,” Mr. Walgren said.

Dr. Murray had been giving Jackson propofol, an anesthetic normally administered in hospital settings, six nights a week for roughly two months before his death, the prosecutor said.

Dr. Murray’s attorney, Ed Chernoff, declined to give an opening statement.

Jackson’s mother Katherine and his sister LaToya and brother Jermaine attended the proceedings.

At the end of the multi-day hearing, a judge will determine whether there is enough evidence for Dr. Murray to stand trial. The Houston cardiologist has pleaded not guilty and his attorneys have said he did not give Jackson anything that should have killed him.

The highly anticipated hearing opened with a bit of star power. The prosecution’s first witness was Kenny Ortega, a choreographer working on Jackson’s final concert series and who later directed the concert film “This Is It,” which was based on rehearsal footage.

Mr. Walgren said he will rely on Dr. Murray’s statements to police, as well as text messages, phone records and expert testimony to show the doctor should stand trial.

He said evidence will show Dr. Murray waited at least 21 minutes to call 911 and ordered a bodyguard to help him clean up evidence before summoning help. In the most favorable interpretation, Mr. Walgren said, Dr. Murray waited at least nine minutes before calling paramedics.

He faulted the doctor in opening statements for performing CPR on Jackson with one hand on his bed, rather than a hard surface as is generally required.

Walgren also plans to call several experts whom he said would testify, “there are a number of actions displayed by Dr. Murray that show an extreme deviation from the standard of care.”

The prosecutor also said he would call a bodyguard who would testify that Dr. Murray ordered him to collect items from Jackson’s bedroom.

Mr. Ortega’s presence suggested the hearing also will focus on Jackson’s preparations for his London comeback shows. Mr. Walgren said that two days before his death, the singer had a “fabulous” rehearsal and was set to go to London in a few days.

A handful of Jackson fans staked out the courthouse, displaying signs seeking justice. A few dozen more waited in line for a lottery in which five courtroom seats were awarded to the public.

Outside the courthouse, Sean Kang of New York City wore a replica of a Jackson performance jacket and a sequined glove to show his support for his fallen idol.

Mr. Kang, 35, shivered slightly while waiting with other fans for Dr. Murray’s arrival.

“My heart is very cold to Dr. Conrad Murray,” he said.

Associated Press Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this story.

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