More than a year and a half after the shocking death of Michael Jackson, the only person charged in the singer's death, his personal physician Dr. Conrad Murray, will finally get his day in court.
Murray, who has been charged with one felony count of involuntary manslaughter, will be in a Los Angeles courtroom on Tuesday (January 4) for the first day of a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold a full trial. The hearing, in front of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor, is expected to last two weeks and feature testimony from more than two dozen witnesses, most of whom are medical experts.
Prosecutors will attempt to show that Murray, who has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge, was responsible for the singer's death from an overdose of prescription drugs on June 25, 2009. Murray's lawyers have said the doctor did inject the 50-year-old pop icon with the powerful surgical anesthetic propofol in an attempt to combat Jackson's chronic insomnia, but that the dose "should have" not been enough to kill him.
TMZ reported on Tuesday that one of the star witnesses during the preliminary hearing will be Jackson's "This is It" choreographer Kenny Ortega. Citing an unnamed source, TMZ said that Ortega is expected to testify that the week before Jackson died, the singer complained that he felt cold, had the shakes and could not perform, which resulted in a canceled rehearsal.
On the next day, June 20, 2009, an emergency meeting was reportedly called at Jackson's rented Los Angeles mansion between the pop star, Ortega, several executives from concert promotion giant AEG Live and Murray. The meeting was described as "intense, loud and argumentative" and Ortega is said to have laid into Jackson, imploring the singer to take better care of himself in the lead-up to what was intended to be his live swan song.
According to TMZ, Ortega is expected to testify that Murray said some "terrible things" during the meeting and displayed a lack of concern and respect for his patient, comments that could be "damaging" to Murray.
Last week, one of the prosecutors in the case claimed that Murray's lawyers were planning to claim that Jackson killed himself when he self-administered a lethal dose of propofol after waking up in a panic from a bout of fitful sleep.
Ortega is also reportedly set to testify that in the two days before his death, Jackson was a changed man, impressing his backup dancers with his upbeat singing and dancing. The testimony could be key to the prosecutors' case, since it could paint a portrait of Jackson as being healthy and energetic before Murray administered the cocktail of sedatives and propofol that allegedly resulted in the singer's death.