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Conrad Murray Manslaughter Trial Begins With Eerie Recording of Michael Jackson Weeks Before Death

Dr. Conrad Murray (left) is seen, along with a graphic created by the prosecution and shown at Murray's hearing. The graphic shows Michael Jackson on a gurney under the words 'homicide'. Prosecutors are seeking involuntary manslaughter charges for Murray in Jackson's death. (AP/FOX)

Opening statements began Tuesday in the trial of Conrad Murray, the doctor accused of killing Michael Jackson, with the prosecution airing a recording of a groggy and seemingly drugged Jackson just weeks before his death and Murray wiping away tears.

Deputy District Attorney David Walgren showed jurors a photo of Jackson on a gurney and said he would detail what happened in the final hours of the singer's life, from the time he left rehearsals for his upcoming tour to the time that paramedics were summoned to his rented mansion.

Walgren told jurors that the audio recording, played publicly for the first time Tuesday, was retrieved from Dr. Conrad Murray's cell phone. Recorded in May 2009, Jackson can be heard talking about his planned concerts. In a barely audible, groggy voice, Jackson has trouble speaking normally. 

"When people leave my show, I want them to say, `I've never seen nothing like this in my life,"' the voice on the recording says.

According the prosecution, Jackson was "highly under the influence" at the time.

Walgren used the audio to bolster his point that Murray should have known better than to continue giving Jackson the powerful anesthetic propofol, which was cited as a cause of Jackson's death on June 25, 2009.

But defense attorney Ed Chernoff told jurors Tuesday that Jackson swallowed several lorazepam pills on the morning of his death. He claimed Jackson also self-ingested the anesthetic propofol, creating a "perfect storm in his body" that killed him instantly.

He also told jurors their job is not to determine whether the physician is a good doctor or not.

Chernoff's remarks came after more than an hour of opening statements by prosecutors who laid out their case against the Houston-based cardiologist. While he gave his statements, an emotional Murray wiped away tears.

"What happened during that time frame is that the acts and omissions of Michael Jackson's personal doctor Conrad Murray directly led to his premature death at age 50," prosecutor Walgren said. "That misplaced trust in Conrad Murray cost Michael Jackson his life." 

Walgren provided details on shipments of propofol sent to Murray, saying the physician was sent more than 4 gallons (15 liters) of the anesthetic in the time he worked for Jackson.

The doctor had initially requested $5 million to work for the singer for a year, but accepted the lower rate of $150,000 a month, Walgren said. His contract to be Jackson's personal physician was never signed, and he was never paid.

A number of Jackson's family members were in the courthouse, including his father Joseph, mother Katherine, sisters LaToya and Janet, and brothers Jermaine, Randy and Tito.

LaToya Jackson carried a sunflower, Michael's favorite flower.

Murray arrived holding hands with his mother.

Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and he and his attorneys have denied he gave Jackson anything that should have killed the pop superstar.

The trial opened with a bit of star power and the one thing the King of Pop enjoyed throughout his life -- a worldwide audience.

Proceedings will be televised and broadcast online. More than a dozen satellite trucks and news vans were parked within a block of the courthouse.

Much of the testimony will focus on propofol, which is normally administered in hospital settings. Authorities contend Murray administered a lethal dose of the drug along with other sedatives, and lacked the proper lifesaving equipment to revive Jackson.

Defense attorneys will present an alternate theory -- that Jackson ingested or somehow gave himself the fatal dose.

While much is known about Jackson's June 2009 death, the trial will reveal new information and provide a detailed record of the singer's final hours. Murray's trial is expected to be the first time that the public hears -- in the defendant's own words -- his account of what happened in the bedroom of Jackson's rented mansion.

Prosecutors plan to call the pop superstar's friend and choreographer, Kenny Ortega, as their first witness in the case.

Defense attorneys for Murray, who could face four years in prison and the loss of his medical license if convicted of involuntary manslaughter, hope to poke holes in the prosecution's case and present jurors with their own theory that the singer was culpable for his own death.

Ortega testified at a hearing earlier this year that Murray warned him not to try to act as Jackson's physician or psychiatrist after Ortega sent the singer home from rehearsals for his final concerts because he appeared to be sick. He is also likely the best witness to walk jurors through footage of Jackson's final rehearsals that were used for the film "This Is It," which will be played in part for jurors. Ortega served as choreographer for the aborted shows and director of the theatrical film.

For most of the jury, it will be their first exposure to the footage. Only two indicated on questionnaires filled out before the trial that they had seen any portion of "This Is It."

Witnesses' recollections and conclusions about the events will be challenged to a far greater extent than they were during a preliminary hearing earlier this year that resulted in a judge ruling there was enough evidence for Murray to stand trial. Defense attorneys did not present a case or make an opening statement during that hearing, but lead defense attorney Ed Chernoff is expected to lay out Murray's side to jurors on Tuesday.

Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor has limited what Murray's lawyers can say about Jackson's history with drugs and his financial troubles. Prosecutors are similarly prohibited from mentioning some of the messy details of the doctor's personal life, including his sizeable debts and that he had several mistresses.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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