After a two-year legal battle and nine hours of jury deliberation, Doctor Conrad Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of pop star, Michael Jackson, at the downtown Los Angeles County Courthouse. Murray served as Jackson’s personal physician as he vigorously prepared for his comeback concert. During this time, Jackson was known to have had trouble sleeping and according to his testimony to remedy this Murray was administering the surgical anesthetic propofol every night for at least two months. The Los Angeles County coroner confirmed that Jackson’s death was caused by “acute propofol intoxication” in combination with two other sedatives.
The trial lasted for 23 days and there were 49 witnesses who included Murray’s girlfriends and patients, Jackson’s former employees, investigators and medical experts for each side. The jurors were left to determine if Jackson had given the deadly dose of propofol to himself or if it was administered by Dr. Murray in an intravenous drip. Prosecutors said that Murray was willing to give the dangerous drug, propofol, in return for $150,000 monthly paycheck.
The spokesman on behalf of the Jackson estate and family called this a “victory” and said “justice was served.” The judge made it clear that this crime was being taken very seriously. When Murray’s lawyers asked to allow Murray to be free while awaiting sentencing hearing, Judge Pastor said “public safety demands that he be remanded.” He went on further to say, “This is a crime where the end result was the death of a human being….this demonstrates rather dramatically that public should be protected.”
Even with all of the coverage, you may still be wondering what involuntary manslaughter means, and what someone does to be guilty of such a crime. In North Carolina, involuntary manslaughter could occur in two different ways. First, it could involve committing an act that results in someone’s death, but the person responsible did not act with the intent to kill. In essence, someone is negligent and that negligence results in someone’s death. This is the theory that Dr. Murray was convicted under. Second, it can result from what is called the “misdemeanor manslaughter” rule. This rule applies when a defendant commits a misdemeanor that results in another person’s death. For example, if the defendant sets fire to brush or grasslands, which is a misdemeanor, and that fire results in someone’s death, that death would be considered involuntary manslaughter because it was caused by the commission of a misdemeanor.
In North Carolina, involuntary manslaughter is a class F felony which could result in up to 49 months, or just over 4 years in prison. This is almost exactly what Dr. Murray will face at his sentencing hearing on November 29, 2011, where he faces up to 4 years in prison.
With Dr. Murray’s minimal criminal history and the ability to obtain parole, there is little likelihood that he will see 4 full years of jail time. What will likely be more devastating than any time he does serve is the loss of his medical license. While this case was pending, his medical license was suspended, and in light of this conviction, California will be investigating whether or not to permanently revoke his license. No timeline has been set for the board to reach its final decision on this matter.
J. Bradley Smith is a criminal defense attorney with Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina who handles a variety of criminal matters for his clients. If you are faced with any criminal charges, please call Arnold & Smith, PLLC at 704-370-2828.
Michael Jackson’s Doctor Guilty