Nightly News   |  October 16, 2011

Will defense put Michael Jackson on trial?

This week, the defense takes center stage at the manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray. Will they try to prove Jackson killed himself? NBC's George Lewis reports.

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LESTER HOLT, anchor: A big week is coming up in Los Angeles at the manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson 's personal physician. Dr. Conrad Murray 's defense is expected to take center stage and the question is, will Murray 's lawyers try to, in effect, put Jackson himself on trial? We get the story tonight from NBC 's George Lewis .

GEORGE LEWIS reporting: The defense will try to show it was Michael Jackson acting on his own who took a lethal combination of drugs that quickly killed him, a theory that Murray 's lawyer laid out in his opening statement, blaming Jackson .

Mr. ED CHERNOFF (Defense Attorney): He died so rapidly, so instantly, he didn't even have time to close his eyes.

LEWIS: The defense contends that Jackson gave himself a mixture of the antidepressant lorazepam and the powerful anesthetic propofol that Murray told police he was using to treat Jackson 's insomnia. Legal experts say the defense has to tread lightly here in its depiction of Jackson , an iconic entertainment figure, as a drug addict . Thomas Mesereau defended Jackson at the singer's child molestation trial where Jackson was acquitted. The judge in the Murray case has ruled that subject off limits to the defense.

Mr. THOMAS MESEREAU: They seem to be grasping for any possibility that might suggest that Dr. Murray is not a substantial factor in the death of Michael Jackson , and I don't think it's going to work.

LEWIS: The prosecution has tried to show Jackson in a sympathetic light, playing a recording Murray made of the singer sounding heavily drugged, talking about children and the pain of his own youth.

Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON: I love them because I didn't have a childhood. I had no childhood. I feel their pain. I feel their hurt.

LEWIS: The defense will try to show that to ease his pain Jackson , and not Dr. Murray , administered the lethal drug overdose .

Mr. MARK GERAGOS (Michael Jackson's Former Attorney): I don't think it's beyond the pale for this jury to come back and acquit Dr. Murray , given what has been produced so far.

LEWIS: And as Murray 's lawyers go to bat, they'll hammer away at their contention that prosecutors did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Murray killed Michael Jackson . George Lewis , NBC