Michael Jackson Will Loom Large at Conrad Murray's Trial

Michael Jackson and Dr. Conrad Murray AP

Michael Jackson and Dr. Conrad Murray
AP

NEW YORK (CBS) The death of Michael Jackson last June 25 spurred an onslaught of news coverage, a very public memorial and a blockbuster documentary on the preparations for his comeback tour. It also brought on legal investigations into the circumstances surrounding his death.

Here's where the investigations and criminal proceedings stand now, exactly one year later.

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By August, the King of Pop's death was officially ruled a homicide, caused by acute intoxication of the powerful anesthetic propofol with other sedatives as a contributing factor.

Six months later, on Feb. 8, 2010, Jackson's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, was charged with involuntary manslaughter by prosecutors in Los Angeles. Murray pleaded not guilty, was released on $75,000 bail and is currently awaiting trail. He maintains that nothing he gave Jackson should have killed him.

CBS News legal analyst Trent Copeland said that Murray can be expected to launch a "very aggressive" defense to the charges against him.

"Any plea to a felony conviction would disqualify Dr. Murray from ever practicing medicine again - anywhere," Copeland said. "From his perspective, he is a healthy, relatively young physician with many years left to practice and make a living and his right to continue to do that would be devastated by losing this case."

With that in mind, Copeland adds there is "virtually no possibility" of settling the case through a plea bargain.

Copeland said to expect that the defense would argue that while it is uncommon for a physician to prescribe and administer propofol outside of a hospital setting, it is not, however, negligent per se to prescribe it in the small doses that Murray admits to having given to Jackson. This, along with allegations that Jackson's complicated pharmaceutical history and over-reliance on medications that Murray wasn't even aware the singer was taking, will make up "the core" of the doctor's defense.

Jackson's lifestyle and reliance on drugs, combined with allegations of "doctor shopping," will also play a part in the trial.

"Indeed, putting Jackson on trial from the grave will be the essence of the defense case," Copeland said.

Joe Jackson's complaint against AEG, in which he alleges the promoter of his son's upcoming tour of engaging in the "unlawful practice of corporate medicine" and forcing Murray to provide Jackson with dangerous medical services, may also aid in Murray's defense.

"The case clearly focuses on the efforts that Dr. Murray was taking to provide a safe medial environment for Jackson and AEG's unwillingness to financially foot the bill," Copeland said. "This may make Dr. Murray a more sympathetic defendant to the jury and he must hope that whatever information is learned in that lawsuit against AEG can be used in his trial. Having those two parties fighting each other can only take some of the spotlight off of Dr. Murray's conduct."

As for the prosecutors, Copeland said that the aggressive way they have gone after Dr. Murray's license to practice medicine in California strongly suggests that the district attorney's office "will stop at nothing to get a conviction" in this case. (A judge declined a request by state authorities to suspend the doctor's license on June 14.)

By charging Murray with involuntary manslaughter as opposed to second degree murder, Copeland explains, prosecutors went for the "low-hanging fruit." Losing on the perceived easier counts would be a blow in the court of public opinion. He does not expect a deal to be offered to the doctor.

Michael Jackson's family - from his mother and father to his famous brothers and sisters - has been a strong and vocal presence throughout Murray's legal proceedings, and will probably be front and center in the courtroom if and when his case goes to trial.

Copeland said their presence will affect the jury - to an extent. But the longer the trial goes on, the more their effect will diminish.

"After some weeks they simply become part of the gallery and the jurors may even forget that they are there," he said.

Jurors becoming accustomed to the family's presence would be the best-case scenario for the defense, Copeland explained. The prosecution, however, will welcome their presence as a reminder to the jury of their loss.

The singer's family members aren't the only ones watching over the proceedings: Jackson fans around the world have also followed news of the icon's death and the subsequent investigations throughout the past year, and will continue to do so when the case goes to trial.

"Clearly, even from the grave, Michael Jackson commands attention," Copeland said. "His persona and presence in the courtroom will hang over the entire proceeding."

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