As week two of Dr. Murray's criminal trial begins, the testimony from week one was very damaging but not necessarily fatal. Dr. Murray is accused of involuntary manslaughter. The prosecution seeks to prove Dr. Murray recklessly caused the pop singer's death by giving Jackson the surgical anesthetic drug propofol. In their opening statement, the primary defense was that Michael Jackson was the cause of his own death saying he gave himself addition propofol when Dr. Murray left the room. In addition, Dr. Murray's team smartly avoided focusing on Dr. Murray's own actions. As a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, I believe last week's testimony (as outlined below) has caused serious damage to Dr. Murray's case. However, Dr. Murray still has a chance of being found not guilty if the jury is left with reasonable doubt about the cause of Jackson's death.
The first round of damaging testimony against Dr. Murray was from Jackson's former security guard, Alberto Alvarez. In short, Mr. Alvarez testified that Dr. Murray asked him to gather up all the propofol and other drug related items before calling 911. Propofol is a surgical anesthetic that, according to prosecution, Dr. Murray recklessly administered to Jackson and ultimately led to Jackson's death. Investigators later found eleven bottles of propofol hidden in a cabinet drawer in another bedroom of Jackson's home. Assuming Dr. Murray did seek to conceal the propofol before calling 911, this is strong evidence that Dr. Murray attempted to cover up the cause of Jackson's death.
The second round of damaging testimony came from Dr. Richelle Cooper who pronounced Michael Jackson dead later that day. Dr. Cooper was the first physician to see Jackson (after Dr. Murray). When Jackson arrived at the UCLA trauma unit, Dr. Cooper testified Jackson had no pulse and was clinically dead. Most importantly, Dr. Cooper testified that when she spoke to Dr. Murray about what had happened as Jackson was in the trauma unit, Dr. Murray never revealed he had given Jackson propofol. Instead, Dr. Murray told Dr. Cooper Jackson had been working long hours and was dehydrated. Dr. Murray also said the only medications he had given Jackson were valium (for anxiety) and Flomiax (for an enlarged prostate). Dr. Murray's defense team now admits Dr. Murray had given Jackson propofol. Thus, Dr. Murray lied to emergency room doctors about what drugs he had given Jackson as they were trying to determine why Jackson had gone into cardiac arrest. Like the body guard's testimony, Dr. Cooper's testimony strongly suggests that Dr. Murray actively covered up his role in Jackson's death.
If this were a civil medical malpractice lawsuit, Dr. Murray would have an extremely difficult time finding any doctor who would defend his actions. Much like the current criminal trial, the defense in a civil trial would also focus primarily on causation; that is, they would probably claim Jackson was the cause of his own death--not Dr. Murray. However, unlike a civil trial, the prosecution in this criminal trial has a higher burden of proof. They must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, making their case more difficult to prove.
All is not lost for the defense, though, in this criminal trial. Despite the damaging testimony showing a cover up, the defense will continue to rely heavily on the theory Jackson caused his own death by giving himself additional propofol while Dr. Murray was out of the room. It will be interesting to see what evidence the defense has to support this bold assertion. If the evidence is weak, Dr. Murray will have a serious uphill battle. After all, Dr. Murray's credibility has taken a serious blow given last weeks testimony from witnesses showing Dr. Murray actively covered up his role in Jackson's death.
LA Times Website, Jackson's Doctor Tried to Hide Meds Before Calling 911, Aide Testifies, September 30, 2011.
ABC News Website, The Death Of Michael Jackson: Conrad Murray Trial Week 2, October 3, 2011.