Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A Postscript on the Conrad Murray Verdict

Okay, I have to admit that this case is a bit more nuanced than my previous post would suggest

After having to listened to what the judge who presided over Conrad Murray's trial had to say, I'm going to have to say that I agree. What happened at Michael Jackson's estate wasn't merely about "a mistake in judgment" as the judge suggests,
but a gross, and criminal negligence. It isn't simply that Dr. Murray left Jackson's side to relieve himself, as Murray suggests, but that he brought propofol
for use outside of a hospital setting, then proceeded to text, and distract himself when he was mindful that there was a potentially hazardous drug within reach.

Moreover, Dr. Murray's failure to call 911 for 22 minutes, as well as not tell the paramedics when they arrived on the scene show that he was aware that he screwed up, and was more concerned about saving his own skin than any effort that may have resulted in saving Mr. Jackson's life.

This shows that Dr. Murray wasn't a god, but a man, and a man who made a mistake, a very big mistake, but he is also a physician, a man who has devoted much of his
life to building a career which was devoted to helping others. All of the witnesses for the defense movingly portrayed Dr. Murray as a good man, and a solid citizen.

The question is of whether Dr. Murray himself administered the lethal dose himself, and that it was that dose itself, not in combination with all the other substances Jackson had in his body, was never answered beyond a reasonable doubt, and Murray's defense team has said, the propofol drip was never set up, so any propofol administered to Jackson would have been by injection. The prosecution failed to
produce evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Dr. Murray administered that injection, and the defense's propofol expert testified that it was quite plausible that Mr. Jackson injected himself.

So, while the verdict of second degree manslaughter with a maximum sentence of four years may seem, in the end, be fair, an appeal is also fair. Having to watch Dr. Murray being handcuffed while still sitting next to his counsel, and only seconds after the verdict was read, made my blood boil. This was reprehensible on the part of the sheriff's department, or whichever law enforcement agents manacled this physician as if he were a common criminal. Even the judge, Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor called out "give him a few minutes to catch his breath."

That Dr. Murray may indeed serve any time at all in a county jail is reprehensible, given the egregious conditions in county jails when compared with federal prisons
like the ones in which both Bernie Madoff and Jack Abramoff have been housed.

Dr. Murray isn't a flight risk, and bail should not have been denied. Denial of bail will weaken Murray's chances on appeal. That he will have to spend time in
jail for as long as it takes for an appeal to be processed, and for him to be vindicated is egregious.

Clearly, this case isn't black or white. Well, maybe it is. Maybe, just maybe, those handcuffs wouldn't have been applied with quite as much zeal if Dr. Murray looked more like the judge than Herman Cain.