After six weeks of listening, jurors in the involuntary manslaughter case of Michael Jackson’s doctor began deliberations Friday morning. Their discussions behind closed doors in a downtown Los Angeles courthouse could lead to the conviction or acquittal of Dr. Conrad Murray, whom the panel has heard described alternately as an inept and opportunistic physician or a naïve outsider granted access into Jackson’s inner realm.
The seven-man, five-woman panel listened intently Thursday as prosecutors and defense attorneys argued over whether Murray should be convicted of involuntary manslaughter for Jackson’s death in June 2009. The physician’s attorneys attacked prosecutors and their witnesses, saying they had over time developed stories and theories that placed the blame for Jackson’s death squarely on Murray.
Media were camped outside the courthouse and in the courtroom where the jury’s decision will eventually be read. There was no sign of Murray or attorneys handling the case, but they will receive a two-hour notice when a verdict is reached. Murray waived the need for his presence if the panel asks any questions, but must be present when a verdict is reached.
Jackson died from a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol; Murray has acknowledged giving Jackson propofol to help him sleep.
The real reason Jackson died, defense attorney Ed Chernoff argued, was because he craved the powerful anesthetic so much that he gave himself a fatal injection when Murray left his bedside.
"They want you to convict Dr. Murray for the actions of Michael Jackson," Chernoff said.
"Poor Conrad Murray," prosecutor David Walgren replied in his final speech to jurors. "Michael Jackson is dead. And we have to hear about poor Conrad Murray and no doctor knows what it’s like to be in his shoes."
Walgren noted that several doctors who testified – including two who were called by Murray’s attorneys – said they would have never given the singer anesthesia in his bedroom.
Murray is solely to blame for Jackson’s death, Walgren argued, saying Murray had purchased more than four gallons of propofol to administer to Jackson and had been giving him nightly doses to help him sleep.
Walgren repeatedly described Murray’s treatments on Jackson as unusual and called his actions on the day of the singer’s death – including not calling 911 and not mentioning his propofol doses to paramedics or other doctors – "bizarre."
Murray was essentially experimenting on Jackson, Walgren said. Murray should have known Jackson might die from the treatments, yet he lacked the proper life-saving and monitoring equipment.
"What is unusual and unpredictable is that Michael Jackson lived as long as he did under the care of Conrad Murray in this situation," Walgren said.
The prosecutor repeatedly invoked the singer’s children, Prince, Paris and Blanket, and said Murray’s actions left them without a father. The children, who range in ages from 9 to 14, were not present, but Jackson’s parents and several of his siblings attended closing arguments.
The Houston-based cardiologist’s culpability will be decided by jurors, who heard from 49 witnesses and have more than 300 pieces of evidence to consider. They were given lengthy instructions about how to deliberate and interpret the case.
If Murray is convicted, he faces a sentence that ranges from probation to four years behind bars, and he would lose his medical license. The sentence will be decided by Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor and not the jury; the judge will receive input from attorneys for both sides and probation officials if necessary. A recent change in California law means that Murray, 58, might serve any incarceration in a county jail rather than a state prison.
If acquitted, Murray would be free from criminal prosecution, but will likely be pursued by medical licensing authorities in the states of California, Nevada and Texas.
In order to convict Murray, jurors will have to determine the cardiologist was substantially responsible for Jackson’s death.
Despite days of scientific testimony about what likely happened in Jackson’s bedroom from experts for Murray and the prosecution, Walgren acknowledged that some things about the events in the King of Pop’s bedroom that led to his death will never be known.
"The people won’t prove exactly what happened behind those closed doors," he said. "Michael Jackson could give answers, but he is dead."
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*Tim Powers is an attorney licensed to practice law by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any specific legal question you should directly consult an attorney."