Last year at this time, it was all the buzz in the MJ community. The first posthumous album of “all new” Michael Jackson material was being met with both excitement and outrage. No sooner had the track “Breaking News” been leaked, then the controversy began: Is it really Michael’s voice-or not? Fans debated over the Cascio tracks, and the bitter divide over whether a “true” fan would support Sony and the estate continues to reverberate to this day. Of course, those of us who bought the album have our own justification.
I can’t deny, it thrills me when I know there is still more Michael Jackson music to be heard. I am intrigued by the work he was doing in his later years, especially the tracks he was working on beneath the radar when most of the world assumed he was (apparently) living some vagabond, non-productive existence. I think we can safely lay that assumption to rest. One thing for sure-Michael Jackson was never idle when it came to creating music.
So, controversy or not, a lot of us bought “Michael.” But a year later, how is it holding up in comparison to our old favorites?
This occurred to me one day recently as I realized that after much initial excitement, and playing the album almost non-stop for over a month,I really haven’t listened to “Michael” in a long time. Yet I listen to Michael’s music daily. But the tracks that are most consistently played on my MP3 these days are the same standbys that I’ve loved for years-the albums and tracks Michael released during his lifetime. It’s not that I made some conscious decision to not listen to “Michael.” It’s just the natural, human tendency to fall back comfortably into old, familiar habits once the “new” has worn off. But on a deeper level, does that mean the songs on “Michael” simply haven’t held up as well as the classics we all know and love?
“Michael” was unfortunately an album plagued with problems from the moment it was out of the gate. In addition to the damage done by all of the controversy over the Cascio tracks, add to that shoddy promotion from Sony, poor choices in single releases, and a couple of lame videos (including a most disappointing video for one of the album’s most stellar tracks, “Behind The Mask” which should have been epic) and you have the perfect recipe for failure. “Hold My Hand,” a very decent single that should have been a huge hit had it been promoted better, languished on the charts. “Hollywood Tonight” became a #1 dance chart hit, but only after being substantially remixed from the rather lame and over-produced album version. Despite all of these problems, the album did respectable numbers, peaking at #3 in the US and making it into the Top 5 on album charts all over the world.
But a lot of those numbers were driven by high fan expecations and the fact that it was the Christmas holiday shopping season.
A year is plenty of time to assess a product’s long-term value. Just as when I write a new story, I often cannot truly access it until I push the chair away from the computer, walk away from it for awhile, and go back later to look at it with fresh eyes,.
The album, for what it’s worth, still has a lot of pluses. Tracks like Breaking News, Monster, and Hollywood Tonight are tantalizing glimpses and fragments of Michael’s vision. But all the sadder for that reason. One can only imagine what he might have done with those songs-what masterpieces they might have eventually become-had they been brought to their full fruition beneath the master’s hand. They remain what they are-fragments of Michael’s vision, pieced together by other hands, ultimately over-produced to sound “current” (which usually ends up being the downfall of many well-intentioned efforts these days) and somehow lacking the “magic” that we expect from a perfect Michael Jackson track. Magic, after all, is the one ingredient that cannot be faked.
“Another Day” is still by far one of the strongest tracks on the album. Every time I hear Michael sing that opening line, “My life has taken me beyond the planet and the stars,” I get cold chills. But the track still feels somehow unfinished. I suppose it was brought to its completion the best it can be, given the circumstances, but one misses the big production and huge build-up that we know Michael would have given this track. When all is said and done, it just feels kind of flat and never delivers that indefinable, ultimate “oomph” that we’re expecting.
I think that “Breaking News” could have been, potentially, one of those great MJ anti-media, anti-tabloid songs right up there with “Tabloid Junkie” and “Scream.” It would have certainly been a great theme song during the Conrad Murray trial: “Everybody’s watching the news on Michael Jackson.”
Part of me still thinks this track is Michael having the last laugh, winking slyly at us from Beyond. Personally, I’ve never really doubted it was his voice. I had my moments of being unsure, but the more I listened, the more I became convinced that, no, this was Michael doing what Michael did best-being a magician. Keeping us guessing. This was, after all, the guy who could fool even his best friends with his ever-changing bag of “voices.” In “Breaking News,” he is very deliberately adopting a personae, and it’s the personae of an annoying TV journalist telling us what to think of this guy Michael Jackson. That being said, my purpose here isn’t to get enmeshed in that whole debate again because I realize this is something people have very strong and valid opinions about. It’s just my personal take, for what it’s worth.
But my point is that “Breaking News” is a sad reminder of something that could have been brilliant, had Michael been at the helm to fully realize his vision for it. I think if Michael had lived to produce this track as he might have really wanted, there would have never been any question; we would have “gotten it” the same way we got “2000 Watts” on Invincible.
“Behind The Mask” is probably left standing as the album’s one true masterpiece, a standout track that is not only the best track on “Michael” but arguably, perhaps, one of the most brilliant vocal performances of his entire career.
Then there is “Hold My Hand,” a song that I grew weary of last year after endless repetition, but as I said, time has a way of giving fresh perspective. It is not only a very solid track, but also gives the feel of being one of the album’s truly “complete” songs. It’s still sweet, catchy, and makes you want to fall in love (even if you’re not). I don’t even mind that Akon’s vocals somewhat overshadow Michael’s. What we do have here is unmistakably Michael, and besides, “Akon and MJ” make a great team!
But the intervening months since “Michael’s” release has made me realize that there is a reason why these songs will never be as esteemed, or sit as warmly in our memories, as the MJ songs we all know and love. I hesitate to say it’s because they aren’t as good; rather, it’s because they’re lacking what is most obvious: The master’s finishing touch. This is a good time to paraphrase something that my fellow MJ blogger Seven Bowie has often said: Michael gave us all the music he wanted us to have while he was alive.
Is it greedy and exploitative to want more?
I don’t think that is a black and white answer. I can’t speak for all fans, and nor is that my intention. I can only speak for me. I still love hearing undiscovered Michael Jackson music. Nothing is more exciting than hearing something Michael recorded that somehow went under the radar. We’re always hoping for that magical, hidden, unearthed treasure-who knows, maybe another “Billie Jean” is sitting in that vault, gathering dust! At least, that’s the hope most fans have whenever talk of a new posthumous release begins circulating. But is it likely to happen?
Unreleased tracks like “Do You Know Where Your Children Are” and “Slave To The Rhythm” have given a glimpse of hope. These are tracks that are undeniably MJ, and that were brought to completion BY MJ. They only need a little polish (but please, not too much!).
However, I think the realistic likelihood that we’re going to unearth another “Billie Jean” or “Man In The Mirror” is unlikely. “Michael” set the groundwork for what we can expect from posthumous releases-at best, mere tantalizing glimpses of an unfinished vision; at worst, over-produced messes that feel rushed, half baked and half hearted in a cheap attempt to keep the cash cow flowing.
Maybe they have the right idea with the “Immortal” album. Instead of raking what’s left of the vault until it bleeds, why not try revisioning Michael’s existing legacy of work in new and inventive ways? It’s a thought. I haven’t listened to this CD in its entirety yet, but so far all of the fan reviews I’ve read have been overwhelmingly positive.
Posthumous albums, if done right, can be a good thing. If done with care and insight, they can succeed in adding new layers and chapters to a deceased artist’s body of work. I am thinking specifically of a posthumous album by one of my other favorite artists, Stevie Ray Vaughan. In the early 90’s, the posthumous album “The Sky Is Crying” was released to great commercial and critical success. The album yielded Vaughan a chart topping single with the title track, and critics hailed it as a masterpiece lovingly put together by Stevie’s brother Jimmie and other collaborators. But this was because Jimmie Vaughan has been lovingly watching over his little brother’s estate with an iron, eagle eye ever since 1990, making damn sure that nothing squeaks past without his approval. His iron-fist motto has been that he does not want to see his brother’s legacy tarnished in the same way that Jimi Hendrix’s musical legacy was tarnished by a string of poorly conceived and cheaply exploitative posthumous releases.
I wish the same could be said for Michael, in that I wish there was someone on board these projects who is really looking out for the interest of his legacy, and not just the next dollar. Maybe one day it can be his children. That would be wonderful, but until then, I doubt we’re going to see anything close to the true quality that Michael deserves in these posthumous releases.
I am still optimistic that a really, really good (if not great) posthumous Michael Jackson album can be made. I would rather see that one, perfect album than ten shoddy ones. But to make that one, perfect album is going to take time, dedication, a lot of love-and that elusive dash of magic. It can’t be something rushed out just to take advanatge of the holiday shopping season, or to coincide with some other MJ “project.”
A year has now distanced “Michael” from all the buzz, hype, and controversy. What is left standing? An uneven album with some good tracks; one truly outstanding track, a lot of filler, and a couple of tracks that only heighten the sense of loss; the longing for what might have been.
Will I buy future posthumous Michael Jackson releases? That remains to be seen; I refuse to answer definitively because I think the temptation to hear new MJ music will always be there.
But I am starting to realize that there is a simple reason why I’ve gravitated away from “Michael” over this past year, and back to “Off The Wall,” “Thriller, “Bad, “Dangerous,” “HIStory,” “Blood On The Dance Floor,” “Invincible,” etc. Rather than engaging in the depressing game of “what might have been” it’s much more fun and, ultimately more gratifying, to remember what was-at its prime, and at its best.
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.
Just as I was getting ready to pick up with Part Two of my review/rebuttal of Conrad Murray’s crockumentary, I happened to see this. It looks as though Murray has ensnared himself in his own trap more than we thought. He just may have destroyed any chance he might have had for a lenient sentence!
Dr. Conrad Murray’s Video Interviews Could Haunt Him At Sentencing Hearing
By Jen Heger
Dr. Conrad Murray’s decision to participate in a documentary about the Michael Jackson death trial could be used at his sentencing hearing on November 29, RadarOnline.com is exclusively reporting.
The convicted felon sat down with the Today Show before being found guilty of killing Jackson on June 25, 2009.
“I don’t feel guilty, because I did not do anything wrong, I am very, very sorry for the loss of Michael… Michael is a personal friend. It’s heartfelt. It’s been painful,” Murray told Savannah Guthrie.
Murray’s interview with Guthrie, and a British reporter, as well as the documentary which aired in the U.S. on MSNBC last Friday, could be played by the District Attorney at the sentencing hearing.
“The DA is considering playing excerpts of Murray’s interviews. It’s admissible, and completely legal. It’s very compelling evidence, as Murray told the investigating officers a very different series of events that took place, than what he revealed during what was aired on television,” a law enforcement source tells RadarOnline.com.
“Walgren hasn’t decided if he is going to play the interviews, but it only makes his case stronger that Judge Pastor should sentence Murray to four years in state prison because of his inability to tell the truth, on a consistent basis.”
As RadarOnline.com previously reported, the executors of Jackson’s estate, John Branca and John McClain, blasted NBC for airing the documentary. The executors fired off a letter to the network which said, “No sooner was Conrad Murray ordered led away in handcuffs after his conviction on manslaughter charges in the death of Michael Jackson than we discovered your MSNBC network inexplicably will showcase him in primetime Friday night as if he is worthy of celebrity.
“Dr. Murray’s victim, Michael Jackson was a loving father, an incredible talent and someone who had much left to give the world. Dr. Murray is a convicted felon who a judge felt compelled to have placed in handcuffs and jailed immediately after the jury delivered its verdict. He is not someone NBC Universal should be giving a platform on a prime-time pedestal.”
The documentary also highlighted the bickering between Murray’s lawyers, Ed Chernoff and Michael Flanagan. RadarOnline.com was first to report that during the trial, things had gotten so bad between the two lawyers, that Chernoff, who lives in Houston, moved out of Flanagan’s Southern California home. Chernoff had been staying with Flanagan to save his client money.
During one shocking scene of the documentary, Flanagan says, “F**k you,” to Chernoff during an argument over the defense strategy. Murray criticized Flanagan by saying, “I take offense when my damn attorney is not prepared for that man,” referring to prosecution witness Dr. Alon Steinberg.
Stay tuned to RadarOnline.com for developments on this story.
That would be the greatest payback of all, for this thing to boomerang on Murray by actually playing into his sentencing. Well, we shall see on November 29th what comes of it. In the meantime, I’ll pick up with where I left off in Part One.
At about the 6:52 mark, the focus shifts to what Murray told the police. I’m a little confused by the line of questioning here (and equally, Murray’s response) since Hewlett is asking Murray why he did not tell police about giving Michael Jackson the propofol. The fact is, Murray did tell police, but claimed the amount given was only 25 milligrams, injected. I’m wondering if Hewlett did not mean to ask why Murray never mentioned giving propofol when the paramedics arrived,which would make more sense. But since Murray never corrects him, I’m really not sure. Murray’s emphatic response is, “They never asked me!” I am no body langugae expert (in fact, this interview would be a great one for this guy to tackle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eO4gUBL464I; he has done a great series on how Michael Jackson’s body language in interviews exonerates him; I would love to hear his take on this Conrad Murray interview!); however, I do feel that Murray’s emphatic gestures and vocal tone suggest honesty in this particular segment. Here, he is very, very frustrated and I believe there may be some truth to what he is trying to tell Hewlett in regard to the police interview. The problem is that Conrad Murray is like the little boy who cried wolf. When one has repeatedly been caught in so many lies, it becomes harder and harder for any version of their truth to be accepted or believed.
The question of whether there was a drip becomes the next big issue. This was a central focus of the prosecution’s case, with Dr. Steven Shafer testifying that a drip was the only viable explanation for the amount of propofol Michael Jackson actually had in his system at time of death. According to Shafer’s testimony, a drip would have continued to infuse propofol into Michael’s body post arrest; because the body at that point was technically dead, the excess propofol was no longer being metabolized by the liver; thus, you get the very high concentration of propofol in the blood that was determined at autopsy.
Even if we give Murray the benfit of the doubt here, and believe his story, then we know something doesn’t add up. The effect of the propofol (if only 25 milligrams injected) should have worn off in about ten minutes, just as he says. At that point, though the patient may continue to sleep, the potential for any dangerous side effects from propofol such as respiratory arrest should be greatly diminished (but still, should not excuse leaving the patient totally unmonitored). But what the prosecution has maintained all along-and many believe-is that Michael was out for much longer than just the ten minutes or so that Murray claims. And that Murray actually, in fact, planned to have Michael out for much longer.
This explanation makes much more sense when we also take into account other indisputable evidence-not only the concentration of propofol in the blood, but also the presence of the condom catheter and the amount of urine retained in the bladder at time of death.
In fact, the biggest clue of all that Murray’s account of events is bunk could well be…well, for lack of a more delicate way to put it, the Full Bladder Theory. This was something I had wondered about ever since I first read the autopsy report. Not long ago, I came across a great article from Nikki Allygator’s blogsite From Atop The Branches of the Giving Tree that explored this topic in depth. Since I have not asked permission to quote from the article, I will simply provide the link here, but I urge everyone to check out this article and see if you don’t agree that it’s a far more plausible theory than anything put forth by Murray or his defense:
My boyfriend and I read the autopsy report together. When it came to the part that stated Michael had 550 grams of urine in his bladder, my boyfriend (who tends be a very blunt person who just says it like it is) commented, “That’s a lot of p_ss.” Well, yes. It is. Which then begs the question: If Michael had been fully awake and conscious, complaining all morning about being unable to sleep, as per Murray’s story, he wouldn’t have had 550 grams of urine stored in a painfully distended bladder at time of death because that urine would have been voided. As Nikki Allygator’s blog points out, had Michael been awake and conscious enough to be complaining to Dr. Murray right up until 10:50 am, he also would have been well aware of those 550 grams of urine in his full bladder (in short, he wouldn’t have been lying in bed complaining; he would have been going to the toilet!). And even had he been simply unconscious (but alive) his bladder would have automatically voided into the condom catheter. Which really points to a far more disturbing possibility…that he might have lain there, dead, for who knows how long before being discovered! (Or, depending on whether you adhere to any conspiracy theories, before Murray decided it was safe to take action).
Of course, I don’t have a medical background, nor claim to. It would be interesting if any readers with a medical background would weigh in, as I would be very interested to hear your take on this. But I do think it’s all the more compelling evidence that Michael Jackson was left, untended and unconscious, for a much longer period than Murray claimed-or is continuing to claim here. Which also points to the much more likely scenario that Michael was indeed hooked to a drip and being administered a slow infusion.
The topic next moves to the absence of medical records. Murray never denies that he failed to keep records while he was treating Michael Jackson in the spring and early summer of 2009. But he tries to argue this away by saying that the lack of medical records did not cause the death. Well, no, but obviously, a lack of medical records would make it all the harder to get to the bottom of what happened in the event of an emergency or worst case scenario. Whether Murray wants to admit it or not, this is culpability on his part. It makes it seem as though something very shady and underhanded was going on-which it was! Just the very fact that he was administering propofol on a nightly basis in a home setting is incriminating enough. But it’s also another grave admission on Murray’s part (which makes one further question if this guy is dealing with a full deck!). There is a good reason why a doctor has a responsibility-to himself and to his patient-to keep accurate records! What if something goes wrong? What if another physician needs access to those records in order to provide treatment for the patient? What if the doctor is sued by the patient? One would think that, at the very least, Murray would have wanted to look out for his own interests by making sure his butt was covered in the event something happened. Myself, I am no doctor, but even in my profession (teaching) we are taught the importance of keeping accurate records. When I was in grad school doing my student teaching, I remember that our supervisor had a very good name for it. He said to always keep a CYA file-and I’ll let you guess what CYA stands for; it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out! He told us, your CYA file may be the only thing you have if a student tries to sue you or if any problems arise, even years down the road.
For a doctor to not keep records is simply unethical, inexcusable-and very stupid. Unless the doctor has reason to know that keeping records would be far more incriminating for him than to not have them. Hmmm, wonder which category Murray fell into?
In response to a question regarding his alleged payment of $150,000 a month, Murray says he has yet to receive a dime of it. I don’t doubt this is true, largely because all of the loose ends on the business side of things insofar as Murray being hired by AEG were not yet finalized at the time of Michael’s death. In fact, Michael had never even signed the document stating that Murray had been hired as his doctor. And additionally, let’s not forget one very important detail-Michael Jackson died under Murray’s care! So, does Murray honestly think he is still entitled to his $150k? Now that he’s so thoroughly enmeshed in his own culpability, and a convicted felon to boot, he’s not going to come out of this with even one thin dime to his name.
But the defense Murray is trying to use here to throw off the line of questioning-that he was not an enabler or supplier because he never received a dime of the promised 150k-doesn’t hold water. The fact is that regardless of whether he had received the money or not, he was acting on the premise of expectation. He expected to receive that amount in the very near future, so therefore was doing whatever necessary to keep his position. That he did not receive it doesn’t change anything-and it definitely does not absolve his culpability.
At this point, Murray evades answering any further questions. “Part Two,” he says smugly, getting up and walking out. Apparently he was operating under the assumption that he would be acquitted, and would sit down for Part Two. It did not happen.
So now, finally, getting into the meat of this: The actual mockumentary. It starts with all the usual teasers: The announcement of the 02 shows; the news reports of the death; then proceeding to clips from the trial and vociferous fans outside the courthouse. All very predictable by now, to the point of even being cheesy. What matters is what is going to transpire over the next hour as Murray attempts to exonerate his own role in Michael’s death. The very first quote from Murray is chilling:
“Michael was an incredible human being, the greatest performer of all time. We were friends, and I can never, ever betray his trust in me.”-Conrad Murray
A couple of things stand out to me immediatly in that quote. The first two clauses are probably the only truthful and sincere thing this man has uttered in the whole two years since all of this went down. But also note that while referring to Michael as an incredible human being and his “friend” he adds the old cliche’ about him being “the greatest performer of all time.” This seems to have become a standard cliche’ for those who wish to make a distinction between Michael Jackson the human being with that of the ARTIST and PERFORMER. Even Joe Jackson was guilty of it (as the media did not fail to point out, and reminded us at every opportunity, telling us snidely that Joe Jackson did not appear to be grieving the loss of his son, but the loss of an icon!). But at the same time, media “journalists” themselves use this tactic all the time. For instance, when discussing the allegations, they will say, “He was the greatest performer of all time BUT…” or when discussing what they perceive as the downward spiral of his life, “He was the greatest performer of all time, BUT…”
It is really just a sneaky way of saying, yes, Michael Jackson was the greatest performer of all time BUT…and then you know the rest! From that vantage point, they are going to proceed to tear down Michael Jackson, the human being! In Murray’s case, he uses this setup/teaser tactic to let the audience know that even though he could never “betray” Michael Jackson, he is nevertheless about to do just that!
It’s the same duality and “attachment syndrome” that has cursed so many of Michael’s friendships and acquaintances. Because of the attraction of celebrity, few could resist the temptation to be part of his inner circle; everyone wanted that! But by the same token, a precious very few have been unable to resist the tempation to then sell out that acquaintance. Murray wants us to somehow believe he is an exception, while his very actions prove he is not! He wants us to believe that it is only circumstances-being accused of Michael Jackson’s homicide-that have led him to betray Michael’s confidence.
There was some initial debate as to whether Michael was under the influence of something Murray had given him, or if Murray simply ‘found” him in that condition due to drugs administered by some other doctor. In either case, the bigger ethical issue was, Why did Murray record him in that condition to begin with? For what purpose?
Defense attorney Michael Flanagan was quoted as saying that “This is what happened when Murray wasn’t around to treat him.”
But in his Today Show interview with Savannah Guthrie, Murray admitted that Michael was under propofol at the time of the recording, which also is a VERY strong indication that most likely it was Murray who had administered the propofol and was thus, directly responsible for Michael’s drugged state in that recording! Listen to what he says here at 5:45:
So it looks as though, yes indeed, this was exactly what would happen when Murray was around to treat him! Then, having gotten him into that condition, he proceeded to record the conversation! One can only surmise for what purpose, but it seems evident that an eventual “betrayal” was already in the planning stages!
Getting back to the program, we come to the next interesting quote. “My story is one of David and Goliath,” Murray says. “I’ve seen the whole world coming at me; that is Goliath.” He also seems to be implying that he was David when he became ensnared in the “Goliath” that was Michael Jackson’s life and AEG. But one can just as easily look at that situation and ask if Michael Jackson wasn’t the David in this picture! Between the relentless pressure of AEG, fighting insomnia, dealing with the overall stress of the shows, and being subjected to Murray’s nightly “treatment”-which, regardless of whether he asked for it or not, was neither in the best interest of his health or well being-who was really David and really Goliath in this picture?
Anyway, Murray’s analogy doesn’t quite hold up because at the end of the story of David and Goliath, David emerges victorious-despite great odds. That’s the whole point of the story. Maybe Murray still envisioned at the time of his statement that he would emerge victorious also. But it doesn’t look to me as though there are any “Davids” here at all. Michael Jackson is dead, and Murray is facing possible prison time. No giant has come crashing down. In short, I think Goliath won.
“It’s not for others to judge,” Murray says. But he has been judged-and the verdict is Guilty.
In Part Three, I will conclude my review/rebuttal, and will show conclusively that the only thing Murray has succeeded with this little scheme has been the further tightening of his own noose.