Michael Jackson trial: Did Conrad Murray act as a doctor or an enabler?
Conrad Murray, doctor of the late Michael Jackson, will stand trial on a charge of involuntary manslaughter this month, a judge ruled Tuesday. The case could offer insight on legal gray areas.
The upcoming trial of Conrad Murray, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of pop star Michael Jackson in June 2009, could provide clarity on what constitutes medical negligence, legal experts say.
Moreover, it could offer insight into if it is a doctorâ€™s duty to act in the best interest of clientâ€™s health rather than the clientâ€™s wishes to avoid pain.
â€śFrequently, performers are enabled by their handlers and managers and doctors because the recording and film companies want to get more and better performances out of them. Going after Murray is a clear break with that tradition,â€ť says Robert Pugsley, a professor at Southwestern Law School. â€śIt provides a deterrent to the entire medical fraternity in getting involved in overprescribing.â€ť
After a six-day preliminary hearing, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor ruled Tuesday that there is sufficient evidence to try Dr. Murray on the charge of involuntary manslaughter. The judge also stripped Murray of his California medical license. Murrayâ€™s arraignment will be Jan. 25 in Los Angeles.
Mr. Jackson died from an overdose of the surgical anesthetic, Propofol, which Murray acknowledged to police that he had used for two months in treating Jacksonâ€™s insomnia. Later he said he had administered only a tiny amount that should not have killed Jackson â€“ 25 milligrams. Autopsy results showed the amount of Propofol in Jackson's system to have been 10 to 100 times that.
At the preliminary hearing, Murrayâ€™s defense attorneys introduced the idea that Jackson caused his own death either by injecting himself with Propofol or drinking it when Murray wasnâ€™t looking. Prosecutors countered by telling reporters that it would have been impossible for Jackson to inject himself, because the drug is so powerful that he would have passed out before finishing the syringe.
â€śThis will be a battle of experts that will end up depending on who is the most believable,â€ť says Ron Washburn, professor of legal studies at Bryant University. â€śWhat I hope this trial shows is whether or not Jackson acted alone or under the supervision of a doctor.â€ť
Many legal experts suggest that Murray has an uphill legal battle in convincing a jury that Jackson contributed to his own death. But Professor Washburn says Murrayâ€™s attorneys donâ€™t have to prove that Jackson killed himself or anything close to it.
â€śAll they have to do is plant a seed of doubt in jurorâ€™s minds that at least some of the blame should go to Jackson,â€ť he says. â€śThey have to convince them not to be 100 percent sure that it was all Murrayâ€™s doing. Otherwise they must find Murray not guilty.â€ť
Prosecutors must show that something Murray did or did not do was the actual cause of death.
â€śIf they cannot make this showing beyond a reasonable doubt, Murray will be acquitted even though he may have provided awful medical care,â€ť says Ellyn Garafalo, the criminal defense attorney who represented a doctor in the drug death of celebrity Anna Nicole Smith.