Jackson Trial: Murray's Lawyer Feels The Heat

Greg Milam, US correspondent
Sky News
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Jackson Trial: Murray's Lawyer Feels The Heat

Ed Chernoff said he promised Dr Conrad Murray he would find a "good, high profile highfalutin" LA lawyer to defend him against the charge of killing Michael Jackson.

Instead it is Mr Chernoff who finds himself at the centre of a trial attracting a global television audience of millions.

He has so far been the public face of Dr Murray's claim that he was not responsible for the death of King of Pop.

Mr Chernoff is battling the prosecution's case that Murray was negligent in administering the surgical anaesthetic proposal and was therefore guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

He told the jury in his opening statement: "The whole thing is tragic but the evidence is not that Dr Murray did it."

The lawyer from Houston in Texas, with no experience of celebrity cases, has been with Murray since the earliest days after Jackson died in June 2009 and has attracted attention for carrying all of his case notes on an iPad.

So far in the trial he has struggled to match the slick presentation of prosecutor David Walgren.

But criminal defence attorney Lou Shapiro has praised Mr Chernoff's performance so far.

He told Sky News: "The first few days of trial are always difficult for the defence because the prosecution gets to present all their evidence first.

"Mr Chernoff has taken the bold position that Mr. Jackson self-administered medication when the doctor wasn't looking.

"His strategy thus far is to expose to the jury the bias that the prosecution witnesses have against Dr. Murray due to their allegiance and friendship to Mr. Jackson.

"He is doing a good job of that by eliciting answers that reveal whose side they are on.

As well all know, two people can look at the same situation and perceive things very differently."

What is not clear at this stage is whether Mr Chernoff is planning to call Dr Murray to the stand to give evidence in his defence.

Analysts say he may only take that decision if he feels the case is not going his way.

It is also clear the defence has to tread a fine line in drawing attention to Jackson's well-documented use of prescription drugs without appearing to engage in character assassination.

Many of the witnesses Mr Chernoff wanted to call, including other doctors and those who were in Jackson's inner circle, have been ruled irrelevant to the case by Judge Michael Pastor.

Mr Chernoff said that 'gutted' his case but he remains confident he can present enough reasonable doubt to see Dr Murray cleared.

As he told the Los Angeles Times: "I obviously want to win this case. I've got an ego. But what would last would be the effect it would have on Dr. Murray. We're friends."

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