The most famous case being tried today is the manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray. Dr. Murray is on trial for the murder of the world’s most famous pop star, Michael Jackson.
The media, the public, and the medical world are all fixated on the trial as we wait to see what the jury will do. The prosecution has rested its case, but not before laying down some harmful evidence that makes Dr. Murray look like he was grossly negligent.
Involuntary manslaughter is an accidental killing. The killing is generally accidental because there was no premeditation or deliberation. Involuntary manslaughter can be an unlawful killing that takes place during the commission of an unlawful act which is not a felony, or during the commission of a lawful act which involves a high risk of death or great bodily harm that is committed without due caution or circumspection.
The prosecutors in the Dr. Murray trial are focusing on the latter. They called several witnesses who collectively indicated that Dr. Murray was grossly negligent and reckless. Dr. Steven Shafer testified that Dr. Conrad Murray deviated from the professional standard of care in at least seventeen ways, including using Propofol outside of a hospital, without the proper medical equipment, and without any apparent medically necessary reason to use the drug. As a result, Shafer solely blamed Murray for Jackson’s death.
Dr. Christopher Rogers, an examiner with the L.A. County coroner’s office, testified that there was no way Jackson could have given himself the fatal dose of Propofol. Rogers’ testimony is significant because it goes to the heart of Murray’s defense. Murray will argue that Jackson was a drug addict, and it was Jackson himself who actually took the Propofol and injected himself with the drug when Murray left the room. Rogers shed some doubt on this theory. Murray told detectives that he left Jackson for two seconds to go to the bathroom, and when he returned Jackson had stopped breathing. Rogers says two seconds is not enough time for Jackson to have injected himself with Propofol.
Alon Steinberg, a Ventura County cardiologist, gave his expert opinion, stating that Murray committed egregious deviations from the standard of care. The deviations were so egregious, Steinberg claims that Murray would still be guilty of providing substandard care even if Jackson did give himself the final dose of the sedative, reasoning that doctors do not give the patient’s opportunities to administer these type of drugs themselves. Leaving Jackson alone was not acceptable.
Dr. Murray’s girlfriend, Nicole Alvarez testified that she would frequently sign for packages for Dr. Murray that were delivered to her apartment in Santa Monica, but claimed she did not know whether they contained Propofol. The second of Dr. Murray’s three girlfriends at the time, Sade Anding, testified that she was on the phone with the doctor the day of Jackson’s death, until Murray suddenly dropped the phone. After about five or six minutes on the phone with Murray, Murray stopped talking. All Anding heard was a “mumbling of voices”, “coughing” and muffling sounds as if the phone was in Murray’s pocket. Anding eventually hung up.
Perhaps the most damning evidence for Dr. Murray is the information that Murray himself gave to police in a two-hour interview following Jackson’s death. Murray voluntary offered to the police that he had given Jackson Propofol for nearly two straight months, claiming he was trying to wean the singer off of the drug. He also admitted to injecting five gallons of Propofol in Jackson.
Murray’s defense is in the process of putting on their case. They have a lot of work to do, but they do not have to prove that Dr. Murray did not kill Jackson or that Jackson killed himself. All they have to do is create a reasonable doubt in the mind of a juror that Murray did not kill Jackson.