After nine hours of deliberation, the jury in the involuntary manslaughter trial against Michael Jackson's doctor reached their verdict. Dr. Conrad Murray was found guilty of gross medical negligence in Jackson's death. As a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, I was very pleased to see the jury, in my opinion, reached the right verdict.
After six weeks of dramatic testimony, which included overt displays of emotion by Dr. Murray, the doctor showed no emotion as the California jury returned its verdict. Dr. Murray faces up to four years in jail. The judge, in an unusual move, refused to set a bail for Dr. Murray feeling the doctor was a potential flight risk and the risk to others. Instead, Dr. Murray was place in hand cuffs and led out of the courtroom.
Early on in the trial, it was apparent the main issue in the case was whether Dr. Murray caused Jackson's death. After all, there was no credible testimony offered by any expert that would justify Dr. Murray's use of propofol, an anesthesia type drug, in a home setting to help Jackson sleep. The fact Dr. Murray was paid $150,000 a month to give Jackson the drug did not help matters. Dr. Murray's defense team instead focused on blaming Jackson and others for Jackson's death.
Before Jackson died, the defense claimed his dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, got Jackson hooked on Demerol in connection with multiple plastic surgeries performed on the prop star. Demerol withdrawal can severely disrupt sleep. The defense claimed Jackson became addicted to propofol to help him sleep due to sleep deprivation caused by Demerol withdrawal. In addition to Dr. Klein, the defense argued Jackson, himself, caused his own death when he allegedly gave himself added propofol when Dr. Murray temporarily left the room. However, there was never any direct evidence to support this theory. The defense was forced to rely on circumstantial evidence concerning Jackson's addiction to propofol, tape recorded statements by Dr. Murray to investigators that he left the room for a few minutes and returned to find Jackson dead, and further statements by Dr. Murray to investigators that he gave a minimal dose of propofol (that was too small to cause Jackson's death). The defense suggested the only way Jackson could have died under these circumstances was that Jackson gave himself an additional fatal dose of propofol when Dr. Murray was out of the room. In the end, the jury rejected Dr. Murray's defense argument that others, and not him, were to blame for Jackson's death.
Sentencing is scheduled for November 29, 2011. In sentencing, the judge decides the punishment for a defendant who has pled guilty or been found guilty of a crime. Factors to consider in sentencing include prior criminal offenses and the seriousness of the crime. Sentences can range from probation, community service, to prison time. Whether Dr. Murray will receive the maximum four-year sentence is not clear. However, many suggest the doctor will probably receive less than four years. After all, the doctor has no prior offenses and his conduct, albeit grossly negligent, was not intentional.
As a result of the conviction, Dr. Murray's medical license will be automatically suspended. However, that may be the least of Dr. Murray's worries. The doctor will probably also face a civil medical malpractice lawsuit by Jackson family. The damages sought from such a suit will be astronomical.
CNN Website, Conrad Murray Found Guilty In Michael Jackson's Death, November 7, 2011.
Find Law Website, Sentencing, November 8, 2011.