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The Trial of the Century: Michael Jackson’s Doctor, Conrad Murray, Accused of Manslaughter

Posted on the 28 September 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

The trial of the century: Michael Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray, accused of manslaughter

The photos displayed by the prosecutors in the Michael Jackson trial.

It’s what some people, somewhat hyperbolically perhaps, are already calling “the trial of the century”: that of Michael Jackson’s doctor, Dr Conrad Murray. He is accused of killing the popular singer on a charge of involuntary manslaughter, and the proceedings have begun with a bang. He stands trial in Los Angeles: the court case is being broadcast across the world. Tensions are mounting as battle lines are drawn up between those who support Murray, and those who vilify him. It’s also been reported that his children, Prince Michael and Paris Jackson, are willing to testify in court, according to The Hollywood Gossip.

The Deputy District Attorney, David Walgren, began  by displaying a photograph of Jackson’s dead body as it lay on a hospital gurney. For extra effect, the picture was marked with the word “homicide.” According to Nick Allen in The Daily Telegraph, the popstar’s sister, La Toya, called the picture “heartwrenching.” (The Jackson family were out in force, La Toya clutching a sunflower given to her by a fan.)

The picture of him dead was in contrast to some of him at rehearsals, mere days before, in which he seemed healthy and happy.  A tape of the singer slurring his words was also played. It had been recorded on Murray’s iPhone. Prosecutors ended by pumping out some of Jackson’s songs, including the plangent and not at all emotionally manipulative Earth Song.

“It’s time to be phenomenal,” said Michael Jackson in the iPhone recording, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009. The Los Angeles Superior Court heard that the coroner’s report said the cause of death was “acute propofol intoxication.” (Propofol is an intravenously administered hypnotic agent.)

Ed Chernoff, Murray’s doctor, said that Jackson had caused his own death by giving it to himself, having already chuffed back enough lorazepam to knock out six people, thus creating a “perfect storm” which killed him “so instantly he didn’t have time to close his eyes.”  It is alleged that Murray had ordered four gallons of propofol 80 days before Jackson died. Murray was on a $150,000 a month contract for looking after Jackson – but he was never paid, as the contract was not signed.

“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,” said Walgren, the District Attorney, in his prosecution speech, quoted in The Daily Telegraph.

What the prosecutors say: The facts are unclear, of course: Murray is alleged to have been on the phone whilst Jackson was heavily sedated. He apparently didn’t pay enough attention to his patient. He is accused of providing lethal doses of propofol without lifesaving equipment, and without having the necessary medical skills. He also is alleged to have delayed calling emergency services, and to have lied to doctors. The Sun reported that Murray is meant to have spent 45 minutes on the phone as Jackson lay dying, and to have called his girlfriend, a cocktail waitress.

“Michael Jackson started begging. When Michael Jackson told Dr. Murray, ‘I have to sleep. They will cancel my performance,’ he meant it,” said Ed Chernoff, in his defence speech, quoted in Associated Press.

What the defence say: Ed Chernoff says that yes, Michael Jackson wanted to succeed, but that it was his ambition which drove him to give himself the fatal dose. He claims that Murray, far from encouraging the singer, was trying to get Jackson off the drug. Jackson administered the propofol to himself whilst Murray wasn’t looking.

Who is Dr Murray? Chris Irvine on The Daily Telegraph looked at Murray’s background: he was born in Grenada, but brought up in the US, and after opening clinics in Las Vegas and Houston, ran across Jackson in Las Vegas. His approach to medicine – holistic – was what apparently attracted Jackson to Murray.

Cynic or scapegoat? Guy Adams on The Independent said it all depended on exactly how those drugs found their way into Jackson’s system. Is Murray a cynical “enabler” who wanted to feed Jackson’s addiction? Or is he just a scapegoat?

Duelling planes. Above the courthouse in Los Angeles, two planes are flying: One reads “God bless Dr. Murray – he is innocent!: the other, “USA & the world demands justice!” with a picture of Michael Jackson, according to the CNN blog.


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