Today I will try to conclude my review and rebuttal of “The Man Who Killed Michael Jackson,” although admittedly this task has taken longer to get through than I initially thought. I guess I can partly blame myself for being so overly detail oriented, but I want to be sure that before it’s over, every detail of this mockumentary has been put under scrutiny. When I start a piece, I often don’t know in advance what direction the piece will ultimately take-that depends on a lot of factors. I prefer to let my writing take me where it will and to follow the dictations of my heart, rather than sitting down with a rigidly outlined plan. But anyway, I believe I can pretty much wrap this up today, so…let’s dig in again!
At the end of Part Two, we left off at the 16:19 mark with Murray’s “David and Goliath” statement. So now I am picking up at about 16:20, which showcases the highlights of both the prosecution and defense opening statements. This was where the defense introduced the theory that it was actually a self-administered overdose of Lorazepam that killed Michael Jackson. We’ve all seen these statements played and replayed hundreds of times. But what is most interesting and telling is the segment that follows. It’s one of those moments where one really has to question what was Murray or his defense thinking by filming this and allowing it to go public?
At 17:37, sometime shortly after the delivering of those opening statements, we see Murray, Ed Chernoff, Mike Flanagan and defense publicist Mark Fierro in what appears to be a break room, openly discussing the Lorazepam theory and wondering if the media will “buy” it. (And as Roger Friedman humorously noted in his own review, this is the first of many scenes in which they apparently thought it would be fascinating for viewers to get to watch them eat! Well, what’s far more interesting is the conversations that apparently went on over those meals!).
I am sure these types of conversations are not at all unusual for defense teams. After all, a defense team has to have a strategy in place. But one would also assume that those strategies have to be at least somewhat grounded in fact. Also, one can assume that in most cases, the defense is not filming their secret strategies for all to witness. Here, you see and hear the defense team basically admitting they have no more idea than the layperson about what happened in that room. Instead, they are coming up with “could have happened” possibilities to introduce reasonable doubt.
What is really disgusting is seeing just how smarmy these guys are as they sit around gloating and patting each others’ backs in the afterglow of opening statements. However, the voiceover aptly says the theory of Michael Jackson dying from a self-administered overdose of Lorazipam and propofol is one they will “struggle to prove.”
“What I was going to say was that Michael Jackson killed Michael Jackson…but that would look like I was going after Jackson”-Ed Chernoff.
Next, there is a conversation between Chernoff and Fierro regarding the apparent shock of the jury and media when they introduced the theory. Chernoff says it is because the jury has been led by the media to believe that propofol killed Michael Jackson. Fierro asks if it is okay to go to the media with this information, and the next thing we see is Fierro on the phone with someone from the media, apparently gloating over the “bombshell” that has been delivered:
“…You know what killed him now, and it wasn’t propofol”-Mark Fierro
Of course, there is one little problem with this statement. It was a blatant lie! Michael Jackson’s cause of death as determined by the autopsy and listed in the coroner’s report is “acute propofol intoxication.”
Chernoff is even seen trying to blame Michael’s cause of death on media sensationalism and distorting of facts. But this is not accurate, for two reasons: 1. To make such a claim, the burden of proof becomes on them to dispute the science of the autopsy findings, which they failed to do, and 2: While the media did distort the facts regarding cause of death, it was not for the most part because they believed Murray had killed Michael with propofol, but because they all wanted to falsely report the death as a “prescription pill overdose.” So right here we know Chernoff is full of it! The media’s version of events actually plays right into their arguement-or should have.
A typical inaccurate and misleading headline from the days right after Michael’s death:
Michael Jackson ‘died of a drug overdose’, according to reports
And while this type of erroneous reporting might have been understandable (though premature) in the days right after June 25th, before the autopsy results had come in, there was no excuse for the media’s blatant disregarding of facts once the autopsy report had been made public. But here is a recent beauty from the very day that the trial began-September 27th, 2011-in which Canada.com not only erroneously reports that Michael jackson died from a prescription pill overdose, but then goes on to list propofol as apparently being one of those prescription medications!
But what happened to turn the tables? Why, after almost two years of non-stop erroneous reporting, did it suddenly become such an uphill battle for the defense to convince the media of their Lorazepam theory? This is an interesting question because in some ways, it goes against the grain of the media’s perception of Michael Jackson. But as I pointed out here, what we saw in the early days of this trial-especially after the prosecution opening statements-was a media shift into “Michael Jackson As Victim” mode. While I’m too cynical to buy that the media had a sudden change of heart regarding Michael Jackson (it was more that the idea of Michael Jackson as homicide victim made for great copy and ratings!) nevertheless, I believe there was something, perhaps, slightly more substantial at stake. The public is basically smart; we are smart enough to see through manure. And also, smart enough to usually recognize manure for what it is. Once the facts of this case began emerging, I think most intelligent people saw that they did not want to be on the losing side of this story. The prosecution presented a compelling, straightforward case, based on unethical malpractice, negligence, and deception, whereas the defense seemed to change their story almost every other day or so, depending on how well or poorly things seemed to be going for them (and most days, as admitted here, it was pretty poor),
I am not sure exactly what the defense’s strategy or line of reasong was to even show any of this. I am guessing that maybe they thought in the event of an acquittal, they could show what incredible odds they were against, but in hindsight of the conviction, it just makes them look all the shadier. It would only be a few days hence when a big mouth from the defense team, Matt Alford, would grant an interview to the Today Show, prompting Judge Pastor to issue a gag order that would remain in effect for the remainder of the trial.
It seems apparent now that Murray, the defense team and NBC have been in cahoots for quite some time. I just don’t buy that it is only coincidence that NBC has been the network most willing to give Murray and his defense a platform in every instance. I think there is some apparent dirty laundering going on beneath Phil Griffin’s table!
The next several seconds are mostly inconsequential, as it’s mostly just Murray recounting how he met Michael and describing some of their times spent together in LasVegas. Most of the account here is probably truthful but not especially insightful (typically, Murray only seems capable of truth when it is inconsequential). I don’t really know whether Michael had ever had a pedicure before meeting Conrad Murray, but I’m sure I can also pretty safely say along with 99.9% of the rest of the world, that I don’t care. Michael Jackson, unlike Conrad Murray, probably had more important things to think about than professional pedicures (a personal hobby that Murray seems inordinately fascinated with).
Perhaps the most telling thing that does emerge from this segment is Murray’s claim that Michael told him he was his only friend. No, I can assure you this is pure self-delusional Conray Murray bs. Michael Jackson in his lifetime had several many, wonderful, close friends-while it’s true that many “friends”sold him out, there were also many friends who remained loyal to him for 20, 30, even 40 years or longer. Michael’s close circle of friends included Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon and Miko Brando, as well as people like David Nordahl whom he confided in for more than 20 years. The idea that Conrad Murray was his “only” friend is laughable. Now, is it possible that just maybe-in a vulnerable moment-Michael told him that, and Murray believed it? Perhaps. But like I said before, if Murray really deluded himself into thinking that, then it says more about him than it does Michael Jackson. The idea of Michael Jackson as this lonely, isolated person who could count his true friends on one hand; who was so lonely that he said he would walk the streets looking for someone to talk to, has become an almost cliched’ part of his mythology-so much so that Murray is willing to bank that no one will cross examine his claim too closely. But really, if we had a dime for every acquaintance who has claimed to be Michael Jackson’s “confidante” and “closest friend”, wouldn’t we all be rich by now! What is most stunning about Murray’s claim is that he actually thinks people are naive enough to believe it.
At this point, I’m going to skip over some more inconsequential stuff to get to the next really important segment, which is when we see Chernoff having dinner at Michael Flanagan’s house with his wife Susan (the mockumentary tells us that the defense is not getting paid at that point; Chernoff has moved in with the Flanagans to save on expenses…oh yes, and it’s another excuse to eat some more!).
At 23:46, Flanagan makes what I think is a very interestingly revealing statement. He’s referring to someone asking about Michael Jackson being so “screwed up” and then, in reference to that comment, answers”Yeah, you see why he needed Dr. Murphy..Murray..that’s what happens when Murray’s not around.” Of course, the fact that he can’t even keep his own client’s name straight is pretty funny (it became almost a running joke during the trial that Flanagan wasn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed). But if you read between the lines here, it is interesting for another reason. Initially, a lot of fans were understandably incensed by this comment and could not get past it to see what was really being said beneath the surface here. But if we can cool our emotions enough to look at the comment objectively, what he is actually saying is pretty damning against his own client! He’s essentially saying that only someone as “screwed up” as Michael Jackson would hire Conrad Murray! Even they had to know they were defending a pusher and an enabler.
At 25:00, we get another bs story from Murray that I highly suspect has been twisted and possibly taken out of context for sinister and melodramatic effect. Without quoting the whole thing, I’ll just paraphrase the gist of it which is that he says Michael said he had “watched” hm, told Murray he had “tested” him, and that he was “The One.” He intentionally gives this alleged statement a sinister overtone, implying that Michael was consciously shopping for an enabler-a sucker. Murray, of course, would have us think that he was just a good, honest doctor who fell into that trap, ensnared by the allure of being “The One.” Who knows if any such conversation ever took place, or if Michael even used those exact words? We don’t, and of course, Murray knows this! Who is going to dispute this conversation, if Michael Jackson isn’t here to do it himself?
What follows are some of the mockumentary’s most controversial moments, as we see a display of imagesintended-I suppose-to show the world what a messy person Michael Jackson was. Murray claimed he was the only one allowed full access to the home, and got to see first hand how Michael actually lived. The problem here is that, as most critics have agreed, what exactly is supposed to be so shocking here? Okay, so Michael Jackson was messy; he didn’t keep an immaculate room. I would think if most of us had our private spaces shown on camera for the world to see, it wouldn’t be a pretty picture! What most, I think, did take away from this segment was just what a pathetic attempt it was on Murray’s part to grasp at straws-any straws-to try to make Michael look bad! But let’s face it, unless there is something truly incriminating or shocking to show, most of us aren’t going to be too bent out of shape over a messy bedroom and bathroom.
But here is where it gets even more pathetic, and hilarious! Murray says he would have to tell Michael to clean his room! I can tell you exactly why I don’t buy it-not for a minute. All you have to do, if in doubt, is go back and watch This Is It to see how the people who worked for Michael Jackson interacted with him. It was always “Yes, Michael” and “No, Michael”-to the point of ad nauseum sometimes! Michael Jackson may have been soft-spoken and may have followed up every command with “It’s all for Love, L. O.V.E” but one thing’s for sure-he was always the boss; the one in charge! If you worked for Michael Jackson, you didn’t tell him to clean his room; you just didn’t! He would tell you when he wanted it cleaned, and how to go about making sure it was properly done-with l.o.v.e, of course! If Murray expects us to believe he was able to be boss over Michael in this regard and take command, then wouldn’t it also stand to reason that he was also fully capable of being firm and making a stand when it came to using propofol? Oh but this is where Murray wants us to believe he was totally manipulated and controlled! Well, that is a glaring inconsistency. You can’t have it both ways.
Of course, Murray expects that people will believe this story because it plays into an image which the media has helped perpetuate, which is that of Michael Jackson as little more than a vulnerable, willful child-spoiled and demanding, but also naive and easily led. What Murray fails to realize is that he is painting two completely contradictory pictures-either Michael Jackson is the willful and naive child, or the evil manipulator who has “entrapped” him. He can’t seem to make up his mind which it ought to be.
In reality, the notion of Michael Jackson as a 50-year-old child is both insulting, demeaning, and totally inaccurate. Michael had many qualities that were childlike-for example, his continued belief that there is some goodness to be found in the world; the naive trust he sometimes placed in the wrong people; his sense of wonder and awe and love of magic which was partly what enabled him to create. But in all other aspects, Michael Jackson was an adult-and fully entitled to a messy room if that’s how he was comfortable living! What’s more, he was fully entitled to have a messy room without fear of betrayal by his so called “friends.”
Now here’s where it gets infuriating! We’re shown back at the table with Flanagan, Chernoff and Susan. They are discussing the photos. Flanagan is talking about how no one was allowed into Michael’s bathroom, not even Murray. He makes very rude comments about the appreance of the bathroom, and states that when those photos come out, “What are people going to think?”
So the obvious strategy here is the hope that Michael will be made to look bad just for having a messy bathroom! I still fail to see how this equates to “weirdness.” The bathroom simply looks like that of any lived-in home (especially a home with kids!). I think most intelligent viewers “got” that there was nothing especially shocking or revealing about the photos. What would people think, Mr. Flanagan? Well, I will bet you ten to one that most people looked at those photos and thought, “That looks just like my bathroom!” (I know I did; raise your hand if you did, also, haha!).
Chernoff says he does not believe Michael was as weird as the media tried to make him out to be (so this is where I at least give Chernoff a few props; he’s obviously operating on a fuller deck of cards than Flanagan). But let’s not get too easily carried away…Chernoff is still a man with a dirty job to do (defending Murray) and he’s playing to win!
Anyway, next comes what is probably one of the most bizarre segments of the entire program, and the one that seems to cement that Murray is a delusional sociopath. He claims to have had a spiritual awakening on July 15th, 2009, when the Holy Spirit came to him in a dream at 3am (it’s too bad the Holy Spirit had to wait until July 15th to come to Murray; maybe if He had shown Himself to Murray before June 25th, Michael would still be here!). As Murray strikes a bizarre yoga pose, he describes the Holy Visit:
“As of July 15th, 2009, at 3am, things changed. The Holy Spirit came to me and I could feel the warmth, I can see his face, I can see his garments as he came down to touch me. He lifted me out of that hole of darkness. He brought me to light. He saved me. He protected me.”
“He will put me and keep me safely in the secret chambers of his tabernacle.”-Conrad Murray
As someone who was raised in the Christian faith (even though these days I am more spiritual than Christian) I am not mocking anyone claiming to have had such a revelation. But is it not just a tad convenient for Murray to just happen to have had such a revelation after Michael died, and just in time for the mockumentary? One has to ask, what exactly is this hole of darkness he refers to? We can only hope that it’s his guilt! As for the Holy Spirit’s protection and being in the secret chambers of His tabernacle, all I can say to that is, good for him…because he’s gonna need that protection in jail for the next four years!
Not to mention that having a “spiritual awakening” apparently hasn’t dampened his ardor for the ladies, since he was seen hitting the town with his “baby mama” Nicole Alvarez on the very night after her testimony (a time when you’d think he would at least have the decency to lay low).
I could say more but I’m leaving that between Murray and God. God, after all, is the only one who CAN help him now.
From this point, we get a rundown of the pressures Michael was under as he rehearsed for the This is It shows. There is a deliberate reason for this tactic, as Murray is setting the stage to shift blame onto AEG. The email from Kenny Ortega is mentioned, as well as excerpts from Ortega’s testimony; the crisis meeting at Carolwood on June 19th is mentioned. Then Murray describes a conversation with Randy Phillips in which Phillips says Michael doesn’t have “a f_king cent”; that he (Phillips) is paying for the popscicles his children are sucking and even “the f_king toilet paper he wipes his ass with.” It is stated that under oath, Randy Phillips denied any such conversation ever took place. Phillips said under oath that everyone left the house that night together; he did not have any such conversation with Conrad Murray.
Obviously, this comes down to a “He said/He said” draw. As stated here, only two people-Murray and Phillips-will ever really know if that conversation took place. I’m personally inclined to give this go-round to Murray. I think Randy Phillips said this, and I don’t doubt that he said it exactly as Murray tells it here. But it all goes back to a couple of indisputable facts: No one has ever said AEG were complete, innocent angels in all of this. They were pushing Michael, and pushing him hard, and admittedly were using “tough love” tactics to get him to rehearsals. There are a LOT of culpable parties here. But Murray’s tactic fails because it still does not excuse the fact that his own actions led directly to Michael’s actual death. If one wants to point fingers and play the blame game, one could point all the way back to the first time Joe Jackson ever raised a belt to Michael! But does that make Conrad Murray less guilty? Absolutely not!
One of the more dubious parts of this mockumentary follows when it is implied that Murray may have succesfuly “weaned” Michael off of propofol before the last couple of nights of rehearsal. This was what Murray had claimed, and Ortega says that Michael arrived for rehearsals on those nights full of energy and revitalized. The footage shown seems to bear this out-it is, as we know now, almost all of the footage that made it into This Is It, where we see Michael performing at his best. Just looking at the footage alone, it would be easy to fool someone who didn’t know the full story with this kind of slanted info.
But before being too quick to credit Murray for a couple of good nights of rehearsal, let’s not forget that Michael was under Murray’s “care” on June 21st, just a few days before, when he had tried to reach out to nurse Cherilyn Lee, complaining about being hot on one side of his body, and cold on the other:
He was also under Murray’s “care” when Murray received the voice mail from Frank Dileo only the day before Michael had contacted Cherilyn Lee, on June 20th:
“I’m sure you’re aware he had an episode last night. He’s sick. I think you need to get a blood test on him. We need to find out what he’s doing”-Frank Dileo in a voice mail left to Conrad Murray, June 20th, 2009.
Not to mention, he was under Murray’s “care” on May 10th when the infamous “slurred speech” recording was made!
What does all this add up to? One thing to me becomes very clear: The longer Conrad Murray “treated” Michael Jackson, the sicker he became! As the prosecution stated, the question became not that Michael Jackson died under Murray’s care, but how he managed to live as long as he did! And could you really imagine this continuing all through the London 02 residency? My guess is that those two rehearsal nights on June 23rd and June 24th were most likely a fluke, or maybe Murray got lucky; maybe something he did clicked and worked for all of two days, only to backfire horribly on the third. But given the history of all the weeks leading up to that last week of June, I think it all points to the fact that Michael was growing weaker and sicker under Murray’s “care”-and not better!
What follows is Murray’s own recount of what happened that morning. It is mostly self-serving bs as he attempts to blame everyone but himself. Poor Alberto Alvarez takes the biggest beating, as Murray tries to shift the blame to him for not being responsive enough; not being quick enough. Murray says he was busy doing CPR-but what he fails to say is that he did not even know how to do proper CPR! All the more reason why 911 should have been called immediatly, but here Murray lies yet again (saying he did not have access to a phone, when clearly he had just been on his own phone for over fifty minutes-was there some reason he could not use his own cell phone to make a 911 call?).
“Poor Conrad Murray! Everyone’s to blame but Conrad Murray!”-David Walgreen.
We get the showdown between Chernoff and Flanagan over the cross examination of Shafer, which is probably the most hilarious segment of the entire program. Chernoff says you can’t argue with science (an arguement that ends with a huffly Flanagan saying “F_k you!”, all while a hilariously bewildered looking Paul White looks on). What is most revealing here, however, is a basic admission from Chernoff that Shafer has them on the science.
“You don’t cross experts on their area of expertise…you’re not going to be smarter than the expert…I’m fighting the judge anyway, fighting the prosecution…I’m hoping it’ll all pan out but (shakes head)-Ed Chernoff
The program ends where it began, with the rendering of the verdict. Oh, and an almost Oscar-worthy performance from Conrad Murray as he sniffles and cries crocodile tears. Even here, his tears seem to be more about what he endured that day than about the loss of his “friend.” “I tried so hard,” he sobs, in a last-ditch effort to win viewer sympathy. Major fail.
And this is exactly how it ends, as nauseating as it sounds.
In hindsight, “The Man Who Killed Michael Jackson” and its American counterpart, “Michael Jackson and the Doctor: A Fatal Friendship” may have been intended to exonerate Conrad Murray post-conviction. But if that was the idea, it failed miserably. The mockumentary did no favors to either Murray or his defense, and now that it may possibly be used against him at his sentencing, I have to wonder if Murray is having second thoughts about all of this. Not that I’m complaining-he deserves to have the book thrown at him!
Since I started this series, a few people have asked me why I’m doing this. Why bother even giving this despicable mockumentary time of day? My answer to that is because, despite all our best efforts to keep this program from airing, it was shown in three countries. Even if you consider that most MJ fans active in the fan community refused to watch, that still leaves several million viewers who did. Thus, I think it is in our best interest to be informed of what these viewers saw, and how to rebut it; we gain nothing by keeping our heads buried in the sand.
With that being said, the boycott of MSNBC and their sponsors remains ongoing. Regardless of how bad Murray actually comes out smelling from this, it does not change the fact that MSNBC, Channel 4, and Network Nine were more than willing to allow a convicted felon a platform to testify post-trial. For that despicable act alone, they still deserve to be sent a very strong message.