Conrad Murray - Guilty or Not Guilty?

The 'Michael Jackson' trial is finally over. I've followed the thrust of it throughout, watching the excellent live coverage from Sky News, here in the UK. So is Conrad Murray guilty of the involuntary manslaughter of Michael Jackson? Here's my take on it all.

1. Murray had been administering the surgical anasthetic propofol to Jackson for quite some time, in conjunction with other drugs. The desired effect was to help the singer sleep, so that he could fulfil his performing and business commitments. The time Jackson had been using propofol and other drugs preceded his involvement with Murray, and Murray unwisely chose to continue the treatment program for money. Murray fully realised the dangers involved with using propofol, but ordered very significant quantities of it, because Jackson had asked Murray to accompany him on a forthcoming 10-month tour. One evening, Jackson ultimately died from an overdose of propofol, administered in combination with other drugs.

Does Murray's agreement to use propofol constitute the single 'substantial factor' in Jackson's death that is necessary for criminal negligence, and thereby involuntary manslaughter to be proven? I think Murray's attitude to the use of propofol was extremely unwise, but for me, the answer is no. Better to administer the drug in some form of controlled manner, than to let Jackson give it to himself.

2. There's no doubt that Murray didn't have the ideal resources available to properly administer propofol, monitor its use on Jackson, or take necessary corrective action should an unexpected event happen. Does this constitute the single 'substantial factor' required for guilt? For me, the answer is again no. Other examples came up, where propofol has been used in a non-surgical environment, for example experimentally, or in a hospice. It was recognised that in reality, such uses might not have all of the ideal safeguards in place, and for me, it wasn't proven that Murray's efforts were unreasonable, including restricting Jackson personal access to the drug.

3. Did Murray negligently administer enough propofol to kill Jackson, in conjunction with the effect of other drugs, as a 'substantial factor' in his death? I believe that Murray used a drip-feed to administer propofol to Jackson, since one or even two 25ml shots would have probably not put Jackson to sleep for long. Murray admitted to police that drip-feeds had been added on many occasions previously for this purpose. I also believe that Murray must have smuggled the drip out of the room, since none of the equipment recovered by police showed much evidence of propofol being used.

But whilst I think Murray may well have messed up the propofol drip-feed, feeding Jackson too much of the drug, I don't think the prosecution proved it beyond a reasonable doubt. And for me, the broken syringe on the floor constitutes reasonable doubt that Jackson might have self-administered the drug - even in a state of panic, why would a trained physician throw a valuable asset on the floor?

Finally, given the unusual setting, I don't think it was unreasonable for Murray to step into the bathroom for two minutes, and for me, it wasn't proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he was out of the immediate area for any longer, thereby abandoning his duty of care.   

So for me, the required 'substantial factor' was not proven here.

4. Did Murray act negligently in his attempts to save Jackson, once discovering that he was no longer breathing, as a 'substantial factor' in his death? You can imagine Murray's state of mind, upon making the discovery. Jackson was one of the most famous men in the world, and Murray faced ruin, if he couldn't save him. I think that in his state of mind, Murray forgot his medical training, and made a hash of trying to resuscitate Jackson. But I don't think the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Murray's actions contributed to his death.

It's what Murray didn't do that condemns him. He didn't call 911, or organise a call to 911, in a timeframe that was anywhere near reasonable. It was quite deliberate, in my view. He gambled that he could save Jackson alone, and the world would never need to know what happened. When his gamble didn't work out, he didn't offer full information to other medical personnel, hoping that everything might go away, or at least that an investigation might be delayed.

There was no excuse for not calling emergency services, pretty much straight away. It wouldn't have been unreasonable to conduct a short attempt at resuscitation first, but he had his phone on his person, and it had a speaker. How long would it have taken to dial 911, and activate the speaker, enabling him to alert emergency services whilst continuing his efforts to save Jackson?

It's this inaction alone that constitutes the single 'substantial factor' in Jackson's death, that Murray was responsible for. Murray's delay in calling 911 denied Jackson the opportunity for paramedics to save him.

So whilst Murray is guilty as charged, I do hope there will be a little leniency for him. He was clearly placed under enormous pressure to supply propofol to Jackson, and there was a lot of money and prestige attached to having the singer as a client.

No comments:

Post a Comment