Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Clifton: Conrad Murray’s Cell Block Tango ends in conviction

Conrad Murray had it coming. He only has himself to blame.

Unless you reside under a rock, chances are you’re aware that Michael Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for administering a lethal dose of the anesthetic drug propofol to Jackson in June 2009.

The verdict was inevitable.

Think for a second. All signs pointed to Murray, although he and a team of many other people had a role in the tragedy. The fault line for Murray is that he was the one with the medical license and was ultimately responsible for the medication’s presence in Jackson’s home.

The prosecution kept it pretty simple and thank God they did. Propofol is a surgical – yes, surgical – anesthetic only to be administered under careful observation in a hospital. Murray didn’t follow procedure and administered the drug to Jackson at home. That negligence resulted in the death of his patient, which is clearly criminal and abhorrent.

Despite his malpractice, the only whining whimpers heard from his defense team for more than a few weeks were “uh uh, not guilty.”

That took many sad, sad forms.

The bodyguard testimony of hiding the propofol under Murray’s instructions while attempts were made to resuscitate Jackson was particularly jarring. The alleged incident does raise striking questions regarding Murray’s integrity – let alone that he was improperly administering the drug in the first place.

There was also the defense’s attempt to operate from a baseless theory that Jackson administered the drug to himself, saying he possibly swallowed the drug or injected it with a syringe. Fingerprints from the scene of the crime found Murray’s prints on the bottle of propofol, while Jackson’s prints weren’t found on the syringe in his bedroom. The defense conceded midway through the trial that propofol has a “trivial” effect if swallowed.

Most saddening was that the defense tried to present Jackson to jurors as a hopeless, depressed drug addict who wished this upon himself. That was low. Anything to protect the client, sure, that’s what lawyers are paid to do.

Among many other failed defenses, it was just one misstep after another for Murray’s defense – and silly ones, at that. At the end of the day, the damage was done and I’m pretty sure they knew that. Sure, our justice system entitles Murray the right to a fair trial. Murray and his legal team were quite stupid in judging this one. A plea deal should have been an option. Then again, they wouldn’t consider it.

“Plea bargains are for guilty people,” said Murray’s defense lawyer Ed Chernoff in a September interview with In Session. “If you’re not guilty then we need to go to trial.” From most reports, it’s not clear that a deal was under consideration from the state either.

With the way they handled this trial, I’m not sure Chernoff was really convinced of his client’s innocence, or whether the push for a trail was client-driven.

At least Murray’s lawyer seems to ethically practice his profession. The same ethical professionalism can’t be said for Murray.

In any profession, it’s important to retain an ethical compass. Doctors hold their patients’ survival in their hands. The Hippocratic Oath mandates doctors “tread with care in matters of life and death…this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness…”.

Any action that takes that duty for granted is one that disrespects the profession, the patient and the patient’s loved ones.

Aside from the reality that Michael Jackson is no longer physically with us, the real travesty is that Murray could get the maximum of a paltry four years in prison or – as some reports indicate due to California jail overcrowding – measly house arrest.

In an interview with The Today Show’s Ann Curry, Michael’s older sister Reebie could only express her disappointment that his sentencing will not be a stringent one. She acknowledged the decision wouldn’t give her and her family Michael back.

I’m sure many other people feel Murray’s actions merit more than what California law mandates for his conviction.

Let’s remember though that this is not finished yet. Joe Jackson, Michael’s father, filed a civil suit with financial ramifications for Murray.

Murray had it coming – and he has it coming with Joe Jackson – and the jury made that clear. He only has himself to blame. If you’d have been in the decision room, if you’d have seen this spectacle of a court case, I betcha you would have done the same.

Derrick Clifton is a Communications senior. He can be reached at [email protected].

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Clifton: Conrad Murray’s Cell Block Tango ends in conviction