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Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor handed the case to the seven-man, five-woman jury Thursday after closing arguments by prosecutor David Walgren and lead defense lawyer Ed Chernoff. Over nearly six weeks of testimony, jurors heard from 33 prosecution witnesses and 16 defense witnesses. More than 340 exhibits were available in the jury room as the panel mulled a verdict.
Jackson, 50, died on June 25, 2009, of an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol, aggravated by effects of the sedative lorazepam. Murray, 58, was charged with a single count of involuntary manslaughter. He pleaded not guilty.
Walgren said Murray caused Jackson's death through acts of "criminal negligence" in using a hospital-grade drug for insomnia in Jackson's home without proper monitoring and resuscitation equipment. Murray also acted negligently in delaying 20 minutes before calling 911, attempting CPR incompetently and failing to tell rescue personnel he had used propofol, Walgren said.
A negligent failure to act can be involuntary manslaughter under California law. Walgren adopted this theory, too, saying Murray had failed to fulfill a doctor's legal duty to care for a patient.
Murray's attorneys said Jackson, not Murray, administered the fatal overdose in an upstairs bedroom of his rented mansion in Murray's absence. If that was the case, Walgren argued, it was criminally negligent of Murray to be absent from the bedside — while using the bathroom or "distracted" by phone calls and e-mails — when he was supposed to be monitoring Jackson's sedation.
"No one has sought to prove that Conrad Murray sought to kill Michael Jackson," Walgren said. But Murray "acted so recklessly with the life of Michael Jackson in his hands that it amounts to indifference to the very life of Michael Jackson," he said.
At the time he died, Jackson was in final rehearsals forThis Is It, a series of 50 comeback concerts to begin in London a month later. Murray, a cardiologist with practices in Las Vegas and Houston, had treated the entertainer and his three children for various ailments in Las Vegas from 2006 to 2008. Jackson, who had complained of insomnia for years, hired Murray in April 2009 on a $150,000-a-month contract to care for him exclusively through the rehearsals and shows.
Murray told police two days after Jackson died that, over the course of two months, he had given the singer propofol intravenously to put him to sleep. Jackson told Murray and other health care providers that only propofol worked to bring him sleep quickly, trial evidence showed. Despite Jackson's pleas for propofol on the morning he died, Murray told police, he gave only half the usual dose — a single "push" of 25 milligrams over three to five minutes — because he was trying to "wean him off" the drug.
Prosecutors heaped doubt on Murray's story. Steven Shafer, an anesthesiologist and propofol expert testifying for the state, said computer modeling based on propofol concentrations in Jackson's blood at autopsy proved that Murray must have given 1,000 milligrams of propofol — 40 times more than he told police — through a three-hour IV drip that continued running even as Jackson died.
Walgren argued that Jackson died in an "obscene experiment" by Murray, who the prosecutor said was using an unprecedented and "bizarre" mode of treatment.
More than eight days of the trial were consumed by a battle over science between Shafer and Paul White of Dallas, a retired anesthesiologist noted for early studies of propofol. White, testifying for the defense, said there was no IV drip. Citing a 1988 propofol study, he said a drip would have produced much higher propofol levels than the coroner found in Jackson's urine.
The prosecution countered White with a 2002 study that Shafer said proved that Jackson's urine concentration of propofol was consistent with a drip.
Paramedics could have been on the scene in four minutes, possibly reviving Jackson after he stopped breathing, Walgren said. Witnesses said Murray didn't ask a security guard to call 911 until after he first tried CPR unsuccessfully, asked Jackson's chef to "get help, get security" and telephoned Jackson's personal assistant to ask him to come to the house.
"What on Earth would delay a medical doctor in making that call, other than to protect himself?" Walgren said.
Then, in neglecting to tell paramedics and emergency room doctors that he had administered propofol, Murray showed consciousness of guilt, Walgren said. "That is Conrad Murray knowing full well what caused Michael Jackson's death," the prosecutor said.
Walgren strongly suggested that Murray had concealed crucial evidence — the IV tubing he had used for propofol — in the big pockets of cargo pants he wore that day.
In a "corrupted" doctor-patient relationship with Jackson, Walgren said, Murray acted subserviently rather than as a doctor putting the patient's interests first. Acceding to Jackson's demands for nightly propofol, Murray "is an employee saying yes to what he is asked, instead of saying yes to what is best for Michael Jackson's health — as any ethical, competent doctor would do," Walgren said.
Murray did not take the stand.
Walgren showed the jury a photo of Jackson's two sons, ages 14 and 8, and his 13-year-old daughter, and repeatedly focused on their loss of their father. "To them, this case doesn't end today or tomorrow or the next day," Walgren said. "For Michael's children, this case will go on forever because they do not have a father."
Walgren never used the title "doctor" for Murray, always calling him "Conrad Murray" neutralizing any respect in which people hold physicians. Chernoff always called his client "Dr. Murray."
Chernoff said in his closing argument that the prosecution was blaming Murray for what Jackson and others did. Murray "was just a little fish in a big, dirty pond," Chernoff said.
He put responsibility on the pop star and on the concert-tour promoters, whom he said were pressuring Jackson. Chernoff also blamed Jackson's dermatologist, who he said had given him Demerol.
In finding Murray guilty, the jury accepted the argument that at least one grossly negligent act, or failure to act, by Murray was a "substantial factor" in causing Jackson's death.
Jackson's parents, Joe and Katherine Jackson, and a delegation of his five brothers and three sisters attended the trial regularly. Jackson fans thronged the hallway outside the courtroom daily. After Walgren's closing argument, Jackson fans cheered loudly and shouted, "Thank you!"
Murray faces a sentence that ranges from probation to a maximum of four years in prison. He also faces possible loss of his medical licenses in California, Nevada, Texas and Hawaii.
The judge, not the jury, will decide Murray's sentence. A recent change in state law means Murray could serve his time, if any, in a Los Angeles County facility rather than a state penitentiary.