Following 22 days of testimony from 49 witnesses, the closing arguments were presented Thursday (November 3) in the involuntary manslaughter trial of former Michael Jackson doctor Conrad Murray.
Nearly six weeks after he kicked off the trial with a headline-grabbing image of an emaciated Jackson on a gurney following his death in June 2009, Deputy District Attorney David Walgren was first up with his closing argument. Walgren told jurors the evidence in the case was overwhelming and Murray’s actions directly led to Jackson’s death from an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol.
“The evidence in this case is abundantly clear … that Conrad Murray caused the death of Michael Jackson, that Conrad Murray left Prince, Paris and Blanket without a father,” Walgren said of the late pop singer’s three children. The DA reminded jurors that a number of medical experts called to the stand by both prosecutors and the defense said physicians had a legal and ethical obligation to deny a patient’s request to provide medical treatment that could end up harming them.
Returning to an argument the prosecution had made all along about Murray’s alleged motives for giving chronic insomniac the anesthetic, Walgren said, “Conrad Murray sought payment for services rendered, the services rendered being the provision of propofol. … Michael Jackson trusted Conrad Murray. But Conrad Murray corrupted that relationship, and for that, Michael Jackson paid with his life.”
Walgren said the evidence against Murray was “overwhelming,” stating that his guilt in the matter is “abundantly clear” and that testimony from defense anesthesiology expert Dr. Paul White that blamed Jackson for giving himself fatal doses of several drugs was “junk science.”
The prosecutor also reminded jurors about how they heard that Murray was speaking to one of his ex-girlfriends , cocktail waitress Sade Anding, when he realized Jackson had stopped breathing, proof that the physician was not properly monitoring the singer’s health.
“Was Conrad Murray in another room? Did Michael Jackson yell out for help? Did he gasp?” Walgren asked. “Did he choke? Were there sounds? We don’t know, and we’ll never know because of the neglect and negligence of Conrad Murray.”
Then it was defense attorney Ed Chernoff’s turn to present his closing argument, which included a detailed breakdown of the prosecution’s key witnesses and why their collective testimony “can’t prove [Murray committed] a crime, and they really need to prove a crime,” Chernoff told the jury.
Chernoff first attempted to discredit the testimony of Michael Jackson’s bodyguard Alberto Alvarez . He said it didn’t make sense that Murray would ask Alvarez to hide evidence since the two barely knew each other and that none of his fingerprints were found on the allegedly hidden evidence. The defense then went after the L.A. County coroner’s investigator for not taking proper notes and photos, as well as not providing a proper chronology. Chernoff emphasized that out of the evidence discovered in Jackson’s bedroom, none of the tubing found had propofol in it. Chernoff also accused prosecution expert Dr. Shafer of having a biased agenda and that his simulations had nothing to do with the case.
Chernoff told the jury there are two reasonable scenarios for Jackson’s death and that is the reason they should acquit. “What the [prosecution] is really asking you to do is convict Dr. Murray for the actions of Michael Jackson. Somebody has got to tell the truth. If it were anyone else other than Michael Jackson, would the doctor be here today?” he asked, reminding them that Murray’s other patients valued and appreciated the doctor’s care. Chernoff claimed Murray only wanted to help Jackson. “He was a little fish in a big dirty pond,” he said.
Furthermore, Chernoff defended Murray not immediately calling 911 because he was trying to save Jackson’s life and that his attempts at CPR did not work. Chernoff cautioned the jury that there is a tremendous desire to paint Murray as the perfect villain, but that there is “no perfect villain or perfect victim.” Chernoff agreed that administering propofol in a home setting may be inappropriate but emphasized the fact that Murray never gave Jackson any illegal drugs or substances. He also asked that the jury not hold Murray responsible just because the victim was Michael Jackson.
Prosecutor Walgren then took over to present the final closing arguments in the case. He reiterated that if Murray had used the proper monitoring devices or administered proper resuscitation or had not left the room, Jackson’s death “wouldn’t have happened.”
“We cannot prove exactly what happened behind closed doors,” Walgren said. “Michael Jackson could give answers, but he’s dead.”
Walgren reminded the jury that they know Jackson died from acute propofol intoxication and that Murray had plenty of opportunities to prevent it.
“Actions speak far louder than words,” he said. “At the end of the day, the issue is not that complicated. Murray was conducting a pharmaceutical experiment in a bedroom. I ask you return with a verdict of guilty on the count of involuntary manslaughter based on his actions alone.”
Judge Michael Pastor earlier instructed jurors that they had two theories they could rely on to find Murray guilty: If they believe he committed an illegal act by providing the propofol to Jackson in a negligent way, or if they believe he failed to perform his legal duty as a doctor by acting in a reckless manner that created a high risk of death.
The seven-man, five-woman jury has to unanimously agree on one or the other theory. In addition to considering the testimony of medical experts who have divergent opinions on the level of care provided by Murray, Pastor asked the jury to weigh the testimony of character witnesses who attested to the physician’s generosity when weighing the verdict.
The judge’s instructions were given in a standing-room-only courtroom that included several members of Jackson’s family, including his parents and siblings LaToya and Randy.
Jury deliberation will begin Friday and, if convicted, Murray could face four years in prison and the loss of his medical license.