Michael Jackson’s doctor was convicted Monday of involuntary manslaughter after a trial that painted him as a reckless caregiver who administered a lethal dose of a powerful anesthetic that killed the pop star. The verdict against Dr. Conrad Murray marked the latest chapter in one of pop culture’s most shocking tragedies – the death of the King of Pop on the eve of the singer’s heavily promoted comeback concerts.
Murray sat stone-faced and showed little reaction at the verdict. There was a shriek in the courtroom when the verdict was read, and the crowd erupted outside the courthouse. The judge polled the jury, and each juror answered “yes” when asked whether their verdict was guilty. The jury deliberated less than nine hours. The Houston cardiologist, 58, faces a sentence of up to four years in prison. He could also lose his medical license.
Jackson died on June 25, 2009, and details of his final days dribbled out over several months. The complete story, however, finally emerged during the six-week trial. It was the tale of a tormented genius on the brink of what might have been his greatest triumph with one impediment standing in his way – extreme insomnia. Testimony came from medical experts, household employees and Murray’s former girlfriends, among others.
The most shocking moments, however, came when prosecutors displayed a large picture of Jackson’s gaunt, lifeless body on a hospital gurney and played the sound of his drugged, slurred voice, as recorded by Murray just weeks before the singer’s death. Jackson talked about plans for a fantastic children’s hospital and his hope of cementing a legacy larger than that of Elvis Presley or The Beatles. “We have to be phenomenal,” he said about his “This Is It” concerts in London. “When people leave this show, when people leave my show, I want them to say, ‘I’ve never seen nothing like this in my life. Go. Go. I’ve never seen nothing like this. Go. It’s amazing. He’s the greatest entertainer in the world.’”
Throughout the trial, Jackson family members watched from the spectator gallery, fans gathered outside with signs and T-shirts demanding, “Justice for Michael,” and an international press corps broadcast reports around the world. The trial was televised and streamed on the Internet.
Prosecutors portrayed Murray as an incompetent doctor who used the anesthetic propofol without adequate safeguards and whose neglect left Jackson abandoned as he lay dying. Murray’s lawyers sought to show the doctor was a medical angel of mercy with former patients vouching for his skills. Murray told police from the outset that he gave Jackson propofol and other sedatives as the star struggled for sleep to prepare for his shows. But the doctor said he administered only a small dose on the day Jackson died. Lawyers for Murray and a defense expert blamed Jackson for his own death, saying the singer gave himself the fatal dose of propofol while Murray wasn’t watching. A prosecution expert said that theory was crazy.
Murray said he had formed a close friendship with Jackson, never meant to harm him and couldn’t explain why he died.
The circumstances of Jackson’s death at the age of 50 were as bizarre as any chapter in the superstar’s sensational life story. Jackson was found not breathing in his own bed in his rented mansion after being dosed intravenously with propofol, a drug normally administered in hospitals during surgery. The coroner ruled the case a homicide and the blame would fall to the last person who had seen Jackson alive – Murray, who had been hired to care for the singer as the comeback concerts neared. Craving sleep, Jackson had searched for a doctor who would give him the intravenous anesthetic that Jackson called his “milk” and believed to be his salvation. Other medical professionals turned him down, according to trial testimony.