Comments On Murray Verdict & Sentencing

In the aftermath of the Conrad Murray guilty verdict of involuntary manslaughter and his sentencing on November 29, 2011, there is no question that the prosecution was handed some enormous breaks which do not normally occur in a criminal case. Further, in my opinion, the prosecution of Dr. Murray, while warranted, completely obscured the issue of significant drug addiction in an effort to assess blame for Jackson’s untimely death.

Without question, Dr. Murray provided the prosecution with the basis for a case against him when he voluntarily chose to speak with the police immediately after the singer died on June 25, 2009 and acknowledged having administered propofol to Jackson in the hours leading up to his death. Under normal circumstances, had Murray consulted an attorney first, no defense attorney would have permitted unrepresented questioning of their client which was designed to, and did, obtain damaging admissions by Murray which were used by the prosecution at trial. Compare this with the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, who immediately “lawyered up” after he was accused of the murders of his wife Nicole Brown-Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. We all know how that original criminal trial against Simpson ended up, despite a mountain of evidence against him.

What has been obscured in the successful effort to convict Dr. Murray for Jackson’s death is that Michael Jackson was addicted to numerous medications for a substantial period of time, and certainly was given propofol by several doctors, not just Dr. Murray, in the months prior to his death. When one doctor would stop giving Jackson his “milk” as he called it, the singer would simply find another target to obtain this powerful anesthetic. Thus, perhaps Dr. Murray should have had some co-defendants in this case, and possibly, as Dr. Murray claimed but could not prove, Jackson himself administered the fatal dose that June day.

I am in no way excusing Dr. Murray’s conduct, and he certainly was guilty of gross medical malpractice in administering propofol in a non-hospital setting, without monitoring equipment, and leaving the bedroom to go to the bathroom or call his girlfriend, whatever the truth is regarding leaving Jackson unattended. Further, Dr. Murray is guilty as charged for violating his oath to do no harm, and from the start should have resisted the temptation, however enticing, to be paid $150,000 per month as Jackson’s enabler for serious drugs and anesthesia. Dr. Murray deserves to lose his license to practice medicine, period. But to suggest that Jackson bore no responsibility for his own death in light of the evidence of his widespread and longstanding drug addiction, including addiction to painkillers, psychotropic medications and anti-depressants, is a little hard to accept.

There are many similarities to the case of Elvis Presley’s doctor George Nichopoulos, (who issued 10,000 prescriptions to Presley in the first eight months of 1977 before Presley died) who was charged, but not convicted, in August of 1977 when Presley reportedly died of cardiac arrest, but in reality died of a drug overdose. At autopsy, Presley’s blood contained the painkillers Morphine and Demerol, Chloropheniramine, an antihistamine, the tranquilizers Placidyl and Valium, and Codeine, Ethinamate, (prescribed at the time as a “sleeping pill”, Quaaludes, and a barbiturate. If Murray had not admitted to the administration of propofol shortly after Jackson died, he might have ended up as Nichopoulos did, charged but never convicted, even though his license to practice medicine would be gone.

Dr. Murray also made the colossal error, almost beyond conception, of baring his true feelings about the charges against him in a shockingly inadvisable interview with NBC conducted prior to the conclusion of the trial but aired after the verdict. In the interview with Samantha Guthrie of NBC, a former prosecutor herself, Dr. Murray had the very poor sense to utter these words: “I don’t feel guilty because I did not do anything wrong.” Firstly, if his attorneys had any idea that Dr. Murray was planning on being interviewed BEFORE SENTENCING, they should have absolutely forbidden him to do so, and I have to assume that the interview was granted against their strong objections. The statements by Dr. Murray, mentioned over and over by the prosecution during sentencing on November 29, 2011, caused Judge Michael Pastor to castigate Murray for a full 27 minutes, which I would surmise was by far his longest statement during a sentencing in his entire judicial career. Pastor was clearly seething as he pronounced Dr. Murray a continuing danger to society, practicing “experimental medicine” and “money for medicine madness.” The judge continued his diatribe, stating that Murray showed no remorse, and flatly rejected a request by Murray’s defense team for probation rather than incarceration with these words: “Why give probation to someone who is offended by the whole idea that that person is even before the Court?”

Due to overcrowding in the California prison system, Dr. Murray will likely serve a fraction of the 4 year maximum sentence he was assessed. But his problems are just beginning. Dr. Murray will undoubtedly lose his license to practice medicine in Texas, Las Vegas, and California, and the Jackson family is reportedly seeking 100 million in compensatory damages.


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