LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson’s personal physician has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for causing the pop icon’s 2009 death by a powerful surgical anesthetic.
The verdict against Dr. Conrad Murray comes after a jury of seven men and five women deliberated for about nine hours over two days. The 58-year-old cardiologist, who was charged with the lowest possible homicide offense, faces a maximum sentence of four years in state prison and a minimum sentence of probation.
Murray now also faces the probable loss of his medical license. California authorities already suspended his right to practice, but medical boards in Nevada and Texas agreed to wait to evaluate licenses he holds in their states until after the criminal case.
Over a four-week case, prosecutors painted Murray as a deceptive and incompetent doctor who abandoned his medical judgment in complying with Jackson’s request to be given a surgical anesthetic to put him to sleep.
Witnesses testified to many egregious medical missteps — giving propofol in an unmonitored setting, fumbling at basic resuscitation, keeping no records — failures that experts said directly led to Jackson’s overdose death.
As his famed patient stopped breathing and suffered cardiac arrest under the influence of propofol, jurors were told, the doctor chatted on the phone and sent and received email and text messages. And in the crucial moments after he discovered the singer had stopped breathing, he delayed calling for help and lied to paramedics and emergency doctors, witnesses said.
Central to the government’s case were the doctor’s own words from a police interview two days after Jackson’s death. In the 2 1/2-hour tape, Murray admitted to giving the singer the propofol — caving after Jackson repeatedly begged for it, he said — as well as two other drugs earlier in the day.
Admissions in the interview were enough evidence enough of the doctor’s guilt, witnesses said. But the prosecution’s star witness also said levels of the drug found during an autopsy showed Murray lied about how much propofol he administered. Dr. Steven Shafer, a renowned anesthesiologist and propofol expert, said the only plausible scenario was that Murray left a large drip of the anesthetic running into Jackson’s blood after he was dead.
The doctor’s defense presented to jurors an alternate theory pointing the blame at Jackson himself. Under mounting pressure to perform and addicted to a painkiller that rendered him completely unable to sleep, the pop star swallowed a sedative and injected himself with propofol — a mixture that killed him instantly, they contended.
No defense witness, however, addressed head-on a point the prosecution’s medical experts repeatedly drove home: that even if Jackson died by his own hand, Murray was equally liable for leaving Jackson alone.
Defense attorneys called to the stand former patients of Murray’s who countered the government’s portrayal, calling him a caring, skilled physician who treated low-income patients for free.
2011 the Los Angeles Times
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