Conrad Murray faces 4 years jail after guilty verdict in killing of Michael Jackson
Published 08/11/2011 | 05:00
MICHAEL Jackson was killed with a lethal dose of anaesthetic by his personal physician Dr Conrad Murray, a jury has decided at the doctor's trial in Los Angeles.
Following a six-week case, cardiologist Dr Conrad Murray, 58, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after the jury decided his treatment of the singer had been criminally negligent. Murray, who will lose his medical licence, sat stone-faced as the unanimous verdict was delivered.
He was handcuffed and remanded in custody for sentencing on Nov 29. He faces a maximum sentence of up to four years in prison.
In court, members of the late singer’s family shouted “Yes” as the verdict came down. Jackson’s mother Katherine sobbed quietly. Later, outside court, she said: “I feel better now.”
As Murray, wearing a light grey suit, was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs he cast a final glance at his own mother, who whispered the words “I love you.”
Judge Michael Pastor told the court: “The end result was the death of a human being. That fact demonstrates that the public should be protected. Dr Murray’s reckless conduct poses a demonstrable risk to the safety of the public.”
Outside court, where Jackson fans had gathered, the entertainer’s sister La Toya said: “Michael was in that court room, and that’s why victory was served.”
Jackson died on June 25 2009, at a rented Los Angeles mansion where Murray had been treating him for chronic insomnia during rehearsals for a series of 50 comeback concerts at the O2 Arena in London.
A coroner later concluded that the singer, 50, died in his bed from “acute intoxication” as a result of the anaesthetic propofol. Murray had admitted giving Jackson a small amount of propofol, a powerful surgical anaesthetic intended only for use in hospitals, but claimed it should not have been enough to kill him.
Defence lawyers claimed Jackson injected himself with an extra, lethal dose of the drug while Murray had stepped out of the room for “two minutes” to use the bathroom. But the jury of seven men and five women decided, after less than nine hours deliberation, that Murray was responsible for the singer’s death.
The doctor was portrayed by prosecutors as a substandard professional who ordered an “extraordinary” four gallons of propofol from a pharmacy, and then gave nightly doses of the drug to Jackson for two months without proper safety equipment.
At the time he noticed Jackson had stopped breathing Murray was on the phone to a cocktail waitress in Houston instead of monitoring his patient, the court heard. Murray then failed to contact emergency services for more than 20 minutes, during which time he attempted to hide vials of drugs and an IV bag which the prosecution said had been used to administer the propofol.
Jackson’s daughter Paris, 13, and son Prince, 14, came into the room and saw their father lying dead or dying. Paris screamed “Daddy” and curled up on the floor crying as Murray panicked, asked bodyguards if they knew first aid, and applied chest compressions wrongly, the court heard. Prosecutor David Walgren said Murray had betrayed Jackson’s trust by drugging him and then leaving him to die. That was an “unconscionable deviation from the standard of care”.
Mr Walgren said: “Michael Jackson literally put his life in the hands of Conrad Murray. That misplaced trust cost Michael Jackson his life. He died alone in his bed. Conrad Murray left this vulnerable man, abandoned him, to fend for himself. It violates not only the standard of care, but decency from one human being to another.” Murray was facing $780,000 in debts, including court judgments against him and his Las Vegas medical practice, and was being chased for outstanding mortgage payments and child support for some of the seven children he had fathered by six women.
The prosecution said he had “hit the lottery” when he landed a $150,000-a-month job with Jackson and needed to keep it. He therefore gave in to the singer’s demands for propofol, a drug Jackson called his “milk”.
At the time of Jackson’s death Murray was not certified as a cardiology specialist, his certification having run out in 2008.
Katherine Jackson has lodged a civil suit against AEG Live, the promoters of the “This Is It” London tour, claiming it funded Murray and was therefore responsible for his medical decisions. AEG deny any responsibility. The singer’s father, Joe Jackson, has also filed a separate wrongful death suit against Murray seeking unspecified damages.
Murray first met Jackson in 2006 when he treated the singer’s daughter Paris for flu in Las Vegas in 2006. Three years later, during rehearsals for “This Is It,” some of those close to the singer believed he was in no fit state, physically or mentally, to take on the performance schedule.
But Murray attempted to prop Jackson up with drugs, the court heard.
On June 24 2009, Jackson had returned from his last rehearsal and swallowed eight tablets of the sedative lorazepam, which would have been enough to put six normal people to sleep. It did not work and Murray gave him propofol.
Prison overcrowding in California means Murray is unlikely to serve all of his sentence behind bars.
Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley said: “It will be very difficult to achieve an appropriate period of incarceration for Dr. Conrad Murray.”