Normally, this is where I would insert an eye-catching pic of Michael. But I think I can be forgiven-just this once-for deviating from the norm, and celebrating a man who tonight is a hero to Michael Jackson fans all over the world. Closing arguments were today, and like many, I sat riveted for the entire hour and a half that David Walgreen spoke. There have been a few days that I will admit I zoned out a bit on this trial. Hours on end of toxicology reports, medical charts, and cross examinations by Michael Flanagan can have that effect. Not so today. Perhaps it was just the heightened tensions of things finally coming to a head, but there was a supercharged vibe in the courtroom today. David Walgreen came off like a man on a mission, and seemed in no mood to take any prisoners. It was brutal, and it was scathingly brilliant.
So why do we love this guy so much.? Because he actually makes sense, unlike Chernoff and Flanagan 80% of the time. He’s easy on the eyes (whereas Chernoff is like what Clark Kent would be if he didn’t have his alter ego Superman). In fact, any comparison of him to the defense team is a little like comparing John F. Kennedy to Richard Nixon and Spiro T. Agnew.
But in all seriousness, the above is just icing on the cake. I think we love David Walgreen because he has become the mouthpiece for the truth we have known all along, but which the rest of the world is just now catching on to-and thanks in large part to him. For six weeks, he has done a consistently outstanding job of laying the evidence out and proving the state’s case. But today he took it to a whole new level, using his platform to humanize Michael Jackson, speaking of Michael’s hopes, dreams, his plans for the future, his love for his children. And because he was able to do it without being interrupted; without commercials; without being “talked over” by some screeching TV host; without being rushed because “we’re almost out of time” it became a powerful message about a life aborted too soon, and the man responsible.
From CNN. com, I have pasted some of the highlights of today’s closing arguements, with my own commentary and responses in bold:
Los Angeles (CNN) — The evidence is “overwhelming” and “it’s abundantly clear” that Dr. Conrad Murray caused the death of Michael Jackson, the lead prosecutor told jurors in closing arguments in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Jackson’s doctor Thursday.
Defense lawyer Ed Chernoff argued there was no crime committed and it’s a negligence case that should instead be heard by the state medical board.
Chernoff also tried to argue away the fact that Murray texted, made phone calls to girlfriends, and sent emails while he was supposed to be monitoring his patient. He used the arguement that we don’t know if Murray was doing it in the room, outside the room, or while sitting by the bed. As many have been saying today, okay, the next time Chernoff has to undergo anesthesia, would he like to know his doctor is texting, gabbing, and sending emails, and would it matter if he’s sitting by the bed or not? I mean, yeah, I will admit it would be pretty tedious to have to just sit and watch someone sleep. But when you’re being paid $150,000 a month to do just that, and are going to administer a very dangerous anesthetic to someone, then you do it-no matter how tedious it is! This is why anyone else who is given propofol is in a hospital setting where you have a trained team watching at all times!
“If it were anybody else but Michael Jackson, would this doctor be here today?” Chernoff asked.
Yes. He took a life.
The jury heard several hours of arguments from both sides Thursday and will begin deliberations on Murray’s fate Friday morning.
“He was just a little fish in a big, dirty pond,” Chernoff said, pointing the finger at other doctors who treated Jackson and Jackson himself.
This I agree with, in part. I do, absolutely, believe that Murray is just ” a little fish in a big, dirty pond.” I would be the first to agree that he isn’t the only player here. But that does not excuse the fact that he is, nevertheless, a player-and the last person who saw Michael alive.
Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009, was caused by “acute propofol intoxication” in combination with two sedatives, the Los Angeles County coroner ruled.
Prosecutors contend Murray’s use of the surgical anesthetic propofol in Jackson’s home to treat his insomnia was so reckless it was criminally negligent.
The defense contends Jackson self-administered the fatal overdose of drugs in a desperate search for sleep without Murray’s knowing.
“What they’re really asking you to do is to convict Dr. Murray for the actions of Michael Jackson,” Chernoff said.
After Chernoff finished his arguments, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney David Walgren attacked the defense for trying to blame “everybody but Conrad Murray, poor Conrad Murray.”
“If allowed more time to argue, I am sure they would find a way to blame Michael’s son, Prince,” Walgren said in his rebuttal after Chernoff sat down.
Walgren began his closing arguments earlier Thursday, reminding jurors of the personal pain caused by Jackson’s death.
“Conrad Murray left Prince, Paris and Blanket without a father,” Walgren said. “For them, this case doesn’t end today, or tomorrow. For Michael’s children, this case will go on forever, because they do not have a father, they do not have a father because of the actions of Conrad Murray.”
Truer words were never spoken! No need to elaborate further.
In court Thursday were Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson; his father, Joe Jackson; and two of his siblings, Randy and La Toya Jackson.
Murray’s mother was seated on the other side of the small courtroom with several of the defendant’s friends as Walgren reminded jurors about the pain Jackson’s death caused for his children.
“We will discuss how Paris had to come in and see her father in that condition and scream out ‘Daddy!’ as she broke down in tears,” Walgren said. “How Prince had a shocked face, a shocked look on his face and was crying.”
Walgren reminded jurors that they each assured him during jury selection that they could reach a verdict even if they did not hear all of the answers about how Jackson died.
“There may be 100 questions and maybe 97 of them are left unanswered, but under the law you must answer just three,” Walgren said.
Telephone records and testimony suggested Murray was talking to Sade Anding, a Houston cocktail waitress, at the time he realized Jackson had stopped breathing. Murray’s call to Anding was evidence that Murray was not monitoring him after giving him propofol.
“What was so important to Conrad Murray that he had to call Sade Anding at that time? What was so important to this doctor that he needed to call one of his female friends in Houston? What was so pressing that he just couldn’t care for Michael Jackson, that he had to call Sade Anding?”
“What was so important to Conrad Murray that he had to call Sade Anding at that time?” I love it! Well, it’s really a rhetorical question, isn’t it? Because we already know the answer. Why does any man call his mistress when he’s supposed to be on the job? Maybe this little cartoon-crude as it is-is closer to the truth than we know:
Anyway, here’s one to chew one: That phone call to Sade Anding may well have been the very thing that cost Michael Jackson his life, since he most likely did go into arrest right about the time Murray was “preoccupied” with Sade! I am not angry with her, but I’ll just say if I were her, I would hate to have to live with that knowledge. But it’s likely she had no idea that Murray was supposed to be on his watch at that time.
Walgren said it will never be known how long Jackson had not been breathing when Murray dropped the phone in the middle of his conversation with Anding.
“Was Conrad Murray in another room? Did Michael Jackson yell out for help? Did he gasp? Did he choke? Were there sounds? We don’t know and we’ll never know, because of the neglect and negligence of Conrad Murray.”
This was difficult. But a truth that needed to be spoken.
Walgren questioned why Murray waited at least 20 minutes after he found Jackson was not breathing before he asked a security guard call for an ambulance.
The delay was an extreme deviation from the standard of care required of a doctor, and the failure to act was criminally negligent, he argued.
“The most common sense thing that we all learn as young children that you call 911,” he said. Murray’s delay contributed to Jackson’s death, he argued.
“To speak to a 911 operator was the only hope of Michael Jackson being revived to see another day,” Walgren said.
This is a good time to comment on Chernoff’s defense of Murray not calling 911 right away. First off, there IS no defense for this. It is reprehensible. I don’t care if Murray was a doctor. There is a reason why, when doctors put patients under anesthesia in the hospital, they are working as part of a TEAM. There is a reason why, when you call 911, they don’t just send one paramedic to your house. They send a TEAM. In a life or death situation, it takes teamwork; it takes having the appropriate backup-and the appropriate equipment. Chernoff is dead wrong on this. It was NOT Murray’s responsibility to try to revive his patient first. It was his responsibility to call 911 immediatly, and THEN do CPR. It only takes all of a few seconds to place a 911 call; it requires pressing three simple digits.You can’t tell me that someone as supposedly talented at multi-tasking as Dr. Murray couldn’t do this!
Walgren said Murray’s delay was because he was “putting Conrad Murray first.”
“What on earth would motivate a medical doctor to delay making that call, other than to protect himself, other than sheer self-preservation, putting Conrad Murray first, putting Michael Jackson and his life last,” Walgren said.
Paramedics arrived just four minutes after the call, but too late to save Jackson, he said.
Chernoff argued that Murray depended on chef Kai Chase to send up a security guard while he was trying to revive Jackson, but she only sent son Prince.
Dr. Murray spoke with police two days after Jackson’s death “to get ahead of the story,” because he knew there would be toxicology reports showing he died from propofol and sedatives, Walgren said.
“Unfortunately, his version doesn’t match up with the evidence, the phone records, the e-mails, but he knew what toxicology findings would show,” Walgren said.
Walgren argued that until the Murray case, no one ever heard of propofol being used this way. He called it “a pharmaceutical experiment on Michael Jackson … an obscene experiment.”
Congratulations, Dr. Murray, for being a true pioneer in the medical profession!
Walgren attacked Dr. Paul White, the defense propofol expert, for his determination “to find a theory or way to blame it on Michael Jackson.”
White testified that the levels of propofol and sedatives found in Jackson’s stomach, blood and urine during the autopsy convinced him that Jackson swallowed a large does of lorazepam and later gave himself with a rapid injection of propofol, which led to his death.
“What you were presented from Dr. White was junk science,” Walgren said.
This came from so totally out of left field that it blew my socks off! But I’m glad because it needed to be said. Personally, the impression I got of Dr. Paul White was a man who can be easily bought. Not to mention his attempts to pass off unprofessionally conducted tests as “research.”
“It is sad that Dr. White came in here, for whatever motive he may have had, for whatever financial considerations he did not share, we don’t know,” he said.
White acknowledged that he is normally paid $3,500 a day for his services as an expert witness.
Chernoff defended his expert and attacked prosecution anesthesiology expert Dr. Steve Shafer, saying Shafer was “not a scientist, he was an advocate. He was trying to prove a point; he was trying to prove a case.”
“Dr. White knows more about propofol than Dr. Shafer will ever, ever know,” Chernoff said.
Shafer testified that the “only scenario” in Jackson’s death was one involving an intravenous drip system infusing a steady flow of propofol into Jackson over several hours before his death.
Chernoff attacked what he said were weaknesses in the prosecution’s argument that Murray placed Jackson on an IV drip of propofol the morning he died.
“The prosecution desperately needed a drip,” Chernoff said, because they couldn’t prove there was a crime without it.
The single injection of propofol that Murray told police he gave Jackson would have been out of his system well before the time he found him in distress, Chernoff said.
“If Dr. Murray did what he said he did, there was no danger to Michael Jackson,” Chernoff said. “Michael Jackson was not going to die and it doesn’t matter if you leave the room and go outside and play basketball,
“Without a drip, what Dr. Murray gave Michael Jackson would not have harmed him,” he said.
Chernoff attacked the credibility of Alberto Alvarez, Jackson’s former bodyguard, who testify that he saw a propofol bottle inside an empty saline bag suspended on an IV stand by Jackson’s bed.
The two months Alvarez waited after Jackson’s death to tell police about the bottle in a bag, the lack of his fingerprints on the bag he said he held, and his description of the bag having a milky substance in it, when no drugs were detected, make his testimony questionable, Chernoff said.
Alavarez, who placed the 911 call from Jackson’s bedroom, also testified he helped remove Jackson from the bed and performed CPR on him, but a paramedic contradicted that testimony.
I will admit, this is a detail that troubles me. I believe the paramedic’s version of events. Possibly, in the panic of the moment, some of Alvarez’s recollections became a bit blurred, but that is a huge inconsistency. I suppose, yes, if I were Chernoff, this is one of those things I would hone in on like a hawk, since they have little enough of subtance to build a case on. In the bigger scheme of things, I don’t think it is something that’s going to make or break the prosecution’s case, but it is troubling.
Chernoff suggested Alvarez embellished his story to make it more valuable.
“All the sudden, his story becomes monumentally more compelling and more valuable,”
Alvarez acknowledged he turned down a $500,000 offer for an interview, he said.
“Do you honestly believe that Alberto Alvarez is not going to cash in?”
A coroner’s investigator and a police detective who found the saline bag and propofol bottle never took a photo of them together or made a note about the bottle being inside the bag, Chernoff said, “because he didn’t see it, because it wasn’t there.”
Chernoff argued the “bottle in a bag” theory was even less believable because the propofol bottle had a plastic strapped attached to it so it can be hung from an IV stand. That strip was never used, both sides agreed.
“Dr. Murray didn’t have to go through the ridiculous, absurd step of cutting a bag, propping it up into a cut IV bag, hanging it up where it could fall,” Chernoff said.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor began Thursday’s court session by instructing the jury — made up of seven men and five women — on the law guiding the decisions they must make.
Pastor said that the jury must unanimously agree on one of two theories in order to convict Murray on the single count of involuntary manslaughter.
The first theory is that Murray’s administration of propofol to Jackson was criminally negligent and it caused Jackson’s death.
Although it was legal, as a licensed doctor, for Murray to administer propofol to Jackson, they could find he was reckless in the way he did it, which created a high risk of death.
Criminal negligence requires more than just ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistakes in judgment, the judge instructed the jurors. A reasonable person would have to have known that the action would create such a risk of death.
Prosecutors have laid out a list of acts they allege were negligent, including not having other medical staff present when propofol was used, a lack of monitoring equipment, ineffective resuscitative care when Jackson stopped breathing and a delay in calling for an ambulance.
Using propofol, which is intended to sedate surgical patients, for sleep was another egregious deviation, they argue.
The second theory that jurors could accept is that Murray, who assumed a legal obligation to care for Jackson when he became his physician, failed to perform this legal duty by deviating from standards of care required of a doctor, including, when he left him alone and unmonitored after administering propofol.
Murray, if convicted, faces up to four years in prison and the loss of his medical license.
Whatever the outcome, we can’t fault David Walgreen. This man has given his all, and then some. So now it is all down to the jury’s decision.
And this may be the hardest part of all. The waiting…the wondering…the anticipation. I’ve been asking myself a lot of hard questions the past few days. While I feel confident that justice will prevail, there is still that nagging thought…what if the jury comes back with a Not Guilty verdict? What then? If we’ve learned anything from recent past high profile cases, it’s that we can’t predict how a jury will vote. And these days especially, acquittals seem to be the norm. Perhaps the fact that this is a one-count case will sway things in favor of a conviction. Maybe. But there’s just no way to know. And frankly, whatever does happen at this point, it is out of our hands. It is that time now, the time in which we must take a collective step back, inhale a few deep breaths, and pray that justice will be served.
But even if the verdict comes back “Guilty” it will be a hollow victory. This is a story with no heroes-only victims. It’s a story with no happy ending, for anyone. What is justice when the best it serves is four years, and possibly only four years of house arrest? Michael is dead. Prince, Paris, and Blanket have no father.
And what about Conrad Murray? Like Michael, he has an elderly mother. He, too, is a father with children, and it’s likely his children will be the ones who suffer most for lack of financial support.
But before we get too caught up in feeling pity for Murray’s children, keep this in mind: Conrad Murray’s children will get to see their father again in four years. For Prince, Paris, and Blanket, it is forever.
ETA: I just saw this posted by MJJ-777 on Facebook, and agree it’s a wonderful idea!
To all MJ fans,
As we approach the end of the Murray murder trial some of us feel it would be a nice gesture to send thank you letters to the prosecutors David Walgren and Deborah Brazil. They have fought so tirelessly and with so much passion, skill and intelligence for MJ I am asking you to please show them your appreciation. The address is:
District Attorney’s Office
… County of Los Angeles
210 West Temple Street, Suite 18000
Los Angeles, CA 90012-3210
Telephone (213) 974-3512
Fax (213) 974-1484