Just minutes after Dr. Conrad Murray was found guilty of one felony count of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson, the judge in the case denied the cardiologist bail and ordered him held in jail until his sentencing later this month.
Murray, 58, sat impassively at a table with his lawyers as the court reporter read the unanimous guilty verdict just after 1 p.m. PT. Dressed in a gray suit and blue tie, the doctor showed no expression as Judge Michael Pastor surveyed the seven-man, five-woman jury about their decision. With the exception of a single loud whoop when the guilty verdict came down, the courtroom was silent during the proceedings.
After conferring with lawyers on both sides, Judge Pastor agreed to a November 29 sentencing date and then announced that Murray would be taken immediately into custody and held without bail until that date. The physician looked surprised when a bailiff immediately came up behind him and began putting handcuffs on the doctor’s wrists. Pastor said he came to his decision after weighing factors including the protection of the public, the seriousness of the homicide charge and his fear that Murray may not show up for sentencing against the fact that the Texas physician has no prior criminal record and has appeared to all previous court dates.
“Dr. Murray’s reckless conduct in this case poses a demonstrable risk to the public,” Pastor said. “Public safety demands that he be remanded into custody.”
Reacting to the verdict, Los Angeles-based criminal defense attorney Mike Cavalluzzi told MTV News he was not surprised by the verdict at all. “I think the prosecution did an excellent job of laying out their case, and I think that there was so much overwhelming evidence of guilt that the defense didn’t really have much of a chance,” said Cavalluzzi, who has worked a range of criminal matters in L.A. courts from misdemeanor battery to homicide but was not directly involved in this case. “This is a very fair verdict, mainly because it isn’t a verdict that calls for any intent or any malice on the part of Dr. Murray. This is about criminal negligence, gross negligence on his part, and I think it’s a fair verdict.”
Jackson’s parents, Joseph and Katherine, as well as siblings LaToya and Jermaine, were on hand to view the decision, and outside the Los Angeles courtroom, a vocal throng of sign-waving fans yelled and clapped as the news spread about the verdict.
Pastor thanked the jury for their diligence in performing their civic duty in a “remarkable fashion” and told them they are now free to discuss the case with whomever they wish. As the jury filed out, Murray stood and looked momentarily over his left shoulder at someone seated in the gallery who was not visible on the courtroom media feed.
The verdict came after 49 witnesses took the stand and the prosecution presented often-bruising testimony against Murray, a cardiologist with clinics in Texas and Las Vegas who was recruited in 2009 by Jackson to help the then-50-year-old star stay healthy in the run-up to his planned 50-date comeback tour, This Is It.
The prosecution brought a long list of medical experts and emergency-room doctors to the stand to testify that Murray had not followed proper procedure in dealing with Jackson when the singer was in distress on the morning of June 25, 2009. They also presented evidence that the care Murray provided for Jackson in the weeks and months leading up to that fateful morning were substandard or outside the bounds of legal and ethical requirements. The witnesses concluded that Murray lacked the proper monitoring equipment to administer the surgical anesthetic propofol to Jackson, an off-label use of the intravenously delivered drug that was reportedly employed to help chronic insomniac Jackson get to sleep.
Investigators found that Murray ordered nearly 4 gallons of propofol in his treatment regimen for Jackson and administered the drug inside the singer’s rented home, a practice that all the prosecution experts said was unheard of. Jurors also heard testimony about how Murray left Jackson’s bedroom for a period after providing him with propofol and spent his time making calls and sending texts to a former girlfriend. When he realized Jackson was in distress, Murray gave the pop star CPR on a bed, a decision that also deviated from the suggested method requiring a hard surface under the patient.
Murray was additionally faulted for waiting more than 20 minutes to call 911, not keeping proper records and failing to tell the paramedics and ER doctors that he had given Jackson propofol.
While prosecution witnesses claimed Murray acted with “gross negligence” in treating Jackson, the physician’s own team of lawyers countered with a string of defense witnesses who called into question claims made by Jackson’s bodyguard that he requested that staffers hide bottles of propofol before he dialed 911. Other character witnesses testified to the generous, attentive nature of Murray’s medical practice, while expert defense witnesses cast doubt on the theories about Jackson’s death provided by the prosecution’s star witness, Dr. Steven Shafer.
Murray, who was slated to make $150,000 a month to care for Jackson, is now facing four years in prison. But new sentencing laws in California aimed at mandatorily reducing state prison overcrowding mean that, as a nonviolent offender with no prior record, he is likely to be sentenced to county jail instead. If that is the case, his sentence could be reduced further. Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley lamented to reporters afterwards that due to the recent changes in California law Murray was not likely to do any prison time.
He also still faces a civil lawsuit brought by MJ’s father, Joseph Jackson, which seeks financial restitution.
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