A jury convicted Dr. Conrad Murray today for involuntary manslaughter in the death of pop icon Michael Jackson. The elements of involuntary manslaughter are:
1. Dr. Murray had a legal duty to care for Michael Jackson (as his physician);
2. Dr. Murray failed to perform that duty;
3. Dr. Murray’s failure was criminally negligent; AND
4. Dr. Murray’s failure caused Michael Jackson’s death.
Criminally negligent (as stated in element #3) is more than ordinary carelessness, inattention or mistake in judgment. A person acts with criminal negligence when he acts in a reckless way that creates a high risk of great bodily injury or death and a reasonable person would have known that acting in such a manner would create such a risk. Furthermore, there can be more than one cause of death (as stated in element #4). Dr. Murray’s actions legally caused death if his actions were a substantial factor in the cause of death.
In Dr. Murray’s case, evidence showed that Michael Jackson had been experiencing insomnia and sought a physician that would administer propofol to him. Many other physicians turned Jackson down, but Dr. Murray gave up his practice to become Jackson’s personal physician and to administer the drug daily for six weeks. Once Dr. Murray agreed to become Jackson’s personal physician, he had a legal duty to properly care for Jackson as any doctor has a duty to care for his patient. This is element #1. The problem is that propofol is a dangerous anesthetic that must be administered in a hospital setting only with advanced monitoring equipment to monitor the patient’s vital signs. It was negligent to administer the drug in any other setting. The fact that the drug was administered at Michael Jackson’s bedside every evening and without the proper setting was where Dr. Murray had failed to perform his duty. This element #2. The fact that Dr. Murray intentionally chose to administer the drug in this fashion (as opposed to this being an accident) is element #3. And it is this negligence — his administration of propofol — that caused Jackson’s death, which is element #4. Dr. Murray’s defense that Jackson administered the fatal dose of propofol himself didn’t convince the jury. Not only was there no evidence of this fact, but also even if it did happen, that’s not a legal defense because Dr. Murray’s actions were a significant factor in Michael Jackson’s death. Dr. Murray didn’t have to be the only factor.
Dr. Murray was immediately taken into custody following the announcement of the verdict. Sentencing has been postponed. The maximum punishment for involuntary manslaughter is four years state prison. However, there is no minimum punishment. A court may impose probation and simply order Dr. Murray to do house arrest.
In my opinion, this was a righteous conviction. We need to keep physicians to the highest level of care possible. Dr. Murray was obviously concerned with the possible wealth and/or fame of being Michael Jackson’s personal physician, which is what prompted him to agree to this substandard level of care. The fact that other physicians turned down Michael Jackson’s request is proof that Dr. Murray was not acting properly. For my part, I’m going to make Dr. Murray a Michael Jackson mix tape to pass the time away. I think the following lyrics from one of Michael’s songs are appropriate for this situation:
The world is outYou’re doin’ wrongGonna lock you upBefore too long,Your lyin’ eyes
Gonna tell you rightSo listen upDon’t make a fight,Your talk is cheapYou’re not a manYou’re throwin’ stonesTo hide your hands