Guilty verdict for Jackson doctor ends latest saga

By Linda Deutsch

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 8 2011 5:56 a.m. MST

A Michael Jackson fan celebrates in front of the media after it was announced that Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's physician when the pop star died in 2009, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter at the Criminal Justice Center, Monday, Nov. 7, 2011, in Los Angeles.

Bret Hartman, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — The single word, "Guilty," brought a muffled shriek in the gallery of the packed courtroom and tears from Michael Jackson's family, but no reaction from the doctor convicted of supplying the King of Pop with the drug he craved for sleep.

With the snap of handcuffs, another chapter in the bizarre saga surrounding Jackson's life came to a close, and the man who once envisioned a glamorous career as the music icon's personal physician was led from the courtroom. Dr. Conrad Murray was going to jail for involuntary manslaughter.

Murray's face was grim but betrayed no emotion. In a few minutes, his life had been shattered and it was likely he would never practice medicine again.

It was a precipitous fall for a man who told his patients he had been given "a once in a lifetime opportunity" for which he was giving up his practice. At 58, he planned to devote himself to one patient, Jackson, who would escort him into a world of glamor and celebrity. They were going to London for Jackson's spectacular comeback concerts.

All of that ended on June 25, 2009, in a Holmby Hills mansion where he gave his difficult patient what he wanted — an operating room anesthetic that Jackson called his "milk," the only thing the singer trusted to put him to sleep.

Now Murray faces up to four years in prison, although overcrowding makes it unlikely he'll serve that long.

Jurors heard hours of testimony about propofol, the drug that killed Jackson, and they listened while defense attorneys blamed the singer for his own death, suggesting it was he, not Murray, who injected the fatal dose.

Did they believe that? Jurors weren't saying. In fact, they said nothing after their verdict. But they didn't have to find that Murray administered the dose that killed Jackson, only that the doctor was primarily responsible for the singer's death.

Their deliberations were short, less than nine hours over two days, presided over by the foreman, a 45-year-old management consultant who had previously been a classical musician and had served on a jury before.

Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor praised the panel's dedication and was harsh in his comments about Murray after the jury left the room.

"This is a crime where the end result (was) the death of a human being," the judge said. "Dr. Murray's reckless conduct in this case poses a demonstrable risk to the safety of the public" if he remains free on bond, the judge said.

He then ordered Murray taken into immediate custody and held without bail pending sentencing Nov. 29.

Prosecutors will address whether Murray should pay restitution at a later hearing and the physician is being pursued by Jackson's father in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Defense attorney Ed Chernoff said the verdict was a disappointment and would be appealed. Asked how Murray took the verdict, Chernoff said, "he's a pretty strong guy."

Regarding Murray's future, he said, "the keys to his handcuffs belong to the judge. We certainly would like to do anything we can to keep him from going to prison."

In post-verdict comments to the media, District Attorney Steve Cooley praised the verdict but suggested a recent change in state law might make it difficult to keep Murray behind bars because non-violent felony offenders are being sentenced to overcrowded county jails and being released early.

Despite six weeks of testimony and hundreds of pieces of evidence, precisely what happened in Jackson's bedroom in the hours before his death remains unknown. Murray offered an account to police two days after Jackson's death, but prosecutors said the doctor's version wasn't consistent with the amounts of propofol found in Jackson's system or other evidence.

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