The New York Times reported earlier today that Michael Jackson’s physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter nearly two and a half years after the star’s shocking death at age 50.
According to the article, the verdict came after nearly 50 witnesses, 22 days of testimony and less than two days of deliberation by a jury of seven men and five women. The trial had focused primarily on whether Dr. Murray was guilty of abdicating his duty or of acting with reckless criminal negligence, directly causing his patient’s death.
Dr. Murray now faces up to four years in prison and the loss of his medical license. Judge Michael Pastor denied a defense request for bail for Dr. Murray and ordered him handcuffed and taken into immediate custody in the courtroom.
Jackson, who had become a star as a child in Gary, Ind., singing with his siblings in the Jackson 5, grew into one of the best-known performers in the world, earning a fistful of citations in the Guinness Book of World Records, including for the best-selling album of all time, “Thriller.”
Though increasingly eccentric in his later years, living much of the year in a secluded California estate he called Neverland, Jackson always maintained a fervent core of fans and, despite his lavish lifestyle and persistent money woes, always seemed just one comeback away from a return to the top.
Dr. Murray, a Houston cardiologist, was paid $150,000 a month to work as Jackson’s personal physician as the singer rehearsed in Los Angeles for “This Is It,” a series of 50 sold-out concerts in London that he needed to pay off hundreds of millions of dollars in mounting debts.
Testimony during the trial showed that Dr. Murray had stayed with Jackson at least six nights a week and was regularly asked — and sometimes begged — by the insomniac singer to give him drugs powerful enough to put him to sleep. Jackson, Dr. Murray told authorities, was especially eager to be administered propofol, a surgical anesthetic that put him to sleep when other powerful sedatives could not. Testimony indicated that propofol, in conjunction with other drugs in the singer’s system, had played the key role in his death on June 25, 2009.
Prosecutors tried to paint Dr. Murray as a money-hungry physician who would do things no reputable doctor would do — including improperly and recklessly administering an anesthetic normally given only in a hospital. The full retinue of drugs given to Jackson while he was under Dr. Murray’s care was so beyond normal practice, prosecutors said, that it amounted to a “pharmaceutical experiment.”
For its part, the defense tried to portray Jackson as a man so desperate to make his comeback concerts a success that he was willing to take wild chances and grew terrified that he would not be able to perform to his own exacting standards without more rest and less stress.
“He tried to close his eyes, and nothing would work,” Dr. Murray told investigators in 2009, saying that Mr. Jackson worried openly about not satisfying his fans. “He complained: ‘I’ve got to sleep, Dr. Conrad. I have these rehearsals to perform.’ ”
The morning Jackson died, Dr. Conrad told investigators during a recording played in State Superior Court here, the singer told him, “Just make me sleep, it doesn’t matter what happens.”
When Jackson died he was in dire financial straits, with more than $400 million in debts, and his concerts in London were intended to raise enough money to keep creditors at bay and restart his career.
But since his death, Jackson’s estate, managed by his former lawyer and a record executive with longtime ties to the Jackson family, has prospered, generating more than $310 million and paying off most of the singer’s debts.
The estate has struck a number of lucrative deals to raise money, including a movie, video games, a new recording contract and two productions by Cirque du Soleil, the first of which, “The Immortal World Tour,” opened in Montreal last month and is touring North America through next summer.
Indeed, the estate has made enough money since the singer’s death to begin distributing large checks to the beneficiaries named in his will. According to a court filing in September, the estate distributed a preliminary payment of $30 million to Jackson’s mother, his three children and a number of charities.
Shortly after Jackson’s death, Dr. Murray told investigators that the pop star would routinely plead with him to administer more propofol, calling it his “milk.” The defense argued that Jackson administered the fatal dose of the drug to himself when Dr. Murray was out of the room.
The Los Angeles County coroner ruled that Jackson’s death was caused by “acute propofol intoxication,” in combination with two other drugs in his system.
The trial included hours of detailed information from doctors and medical experts, who outlined the most likely ways in which Jackson could have received the drug. One expert witness for the prosecution said that the idea that Jackson could have injected the drug himself was “crazy.”
Dr. Murray told investigators two days after Jackson’s death that he had been using propofol almost every night for the previous two months to help the singer sleep. He said that he had been trying to wean Jackson off the drug, but prosecutors pointed out that the doctor had ordered large amounts of the drug just days before Jackson’s death.
In their closing arguments, prosecutors repeatedly invoked Mr. Jackson’s three children to a jury that included nine parents, saying that the singer wanted to perform, in part, so that they could see their father on stage. David Walgren, the deputy district attorney in charge of the case, described the frantic moments after Dr. Murray realized that Jackson was not responsive and as the pop star’s children watched him lie lifeless on his bed.
Prosecutors sought to show that Dr. Murray veered significantly from acceptable medical practice at nearly every turn: by administering the propofol, not having proper monitoring equipment and failing to call 911 right away, among other things. They said that Dr. Murray did not keep any records of administering propofol but had taken time to record Jackson’s voice on his iPhone.
He did not tell the paramedics who responded to Jackson’s home about the propofol, which prosecutors said showed that he knew he was responsible for the singer’s death. Just one day before the trial ended, Dr. Murray decided he would not testify. The trial had prompted a circuslike atmosphere at the downtown courthouse — much as had Jackson’s own 2005 trial on child molesting charges, on which he was acquitted — with hundreds of fans showing up each morning, vying for a seat in the courtroom dispensed by lottery.
Jackson family members attended much of Dr. Murray’s trial, although there was still disagreement among them about business matters. Jackson’s mother, Katherine, and a number of his siblings took part in a tribute concert last month in Wales, but the singer’s sister Janet and his brothers Jermaine and Randy objected to the event, saying that it was inappropriate to hold such a concert during Dr. Murray’s criminal trial.
In one of the most dramatic moments in the trial, prosecutors played Dr. Murray’s iPhone recording of the rambling singer talking about his dream of building the world’s largest children’s hospital.
“I’m going to do that for them,” Mr. Jackson is heard saying in slurred speech. “That will be remembered more than my performances. My performances will be up there helping my children and always be my dream. I love them. I love them because I didn’t have a childhood. I had no childhood, I feel their pain.”
When his voice trailed off, Dr. Murray waited several seconds before asking, “You O.K.?”
After several more seconds, Mr. Jackson answered, “I am asleep.”