The L.A. District Attorney's Office and the attorneys representing Dr. Conrad Murray on a manslaughter charge are looking to enlighten us, starting with a preliminary hearing to determine whether there's enough evidence to send the case to trial.
Of course, each side will be presenting different versions of the truth, one ultimately more successfully than the other. But amid all the fact-divulging and theory-mongering, which starts Tuesday and is expected to last two weeks, you can bet you'll hear the following:
1. What is the prosecution trying to prove, anyway? Murray, a Houston cardiologist who was hired as Jackson's private physician, has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, but has admitted to injecting Jackson on a regular basis—including the morning of his death—with propofol, a hospital-grade anesthetic, to help him sleep. Cell phone records show he made several personal calls on his cell phone after dosing Jackson for the last time. Deputy D.A. David Walgren ultimately has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Murray's criminal negligence caused Jackson's death in order to win a conviction; but to send the case to trial he just has to show a judge he has a case to make for Murray's guilt. The defense's job, meanwhile, is to poke holes in the prosecution's argument.
2. Did Michael Jackson kill himself? Plenty of conspiracy theories have been floated in the last 18 months, but last week was the first we heard that Murray's team was going to raise the possibility in court that Jackson lethally injected himself with the fatal dose of propofol. Well, it's not the most preposterous thing we've ever heard...
3. Will Jackson's children testify? Surely Katherine and Joe Jackson, Michael's justice-seeking parents, will be in court with bells on Tuesday, but it was eldest son Prince who witnessed some of the life-saving attempts made in his dad's bedroom after he went into cardiac arrest. TMZ reports that no member of the Jackson family will be among the 30 or so witnesses on the prosecution's list, which includes investigators and Jackson staffers who were at the house when he died. The defense, meanwhile, has a witness list but is not planning to use it at this stage of the game. Murray's camp will be able to cross-examine the D.A.'s witnesses in the meantime.
4. Will these proceedings end up smearing Jackson's reputation all over again? He had been relegated to circus-freak status since being tried and acquitted of child-molestation, but the pop icon's death served to redirect people's attention back toward his pioneering music career and his artistic contributions. Will all the anticipated talk of habitual prescription-drug abuse and anesthesia-aided sleep raise the freak flag yet again, just as Jackson's estate and Sony are embarking on their plan to release hours of "new" Jackson music and related projects?
5. Is there such a thing as an impartial jury in this case? Judging by the global outpouring of grief when Jackson died on June 25, 2009, you'd be hard-pressed to find 12 whole people (not to mention three alternates) in Los Angeles who either don't have an opinion or preconceived bias against Jackson, or who hasn't read a boatload of information about the case. Legal experts have expressed concern about the ability to seat an impartial panel. Like in any case, really, the court will probably just have to make a leap of faith that the jurors are able to do their part.