Grading the Prosecution: B
The prosecutors in the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray for the homicide of Michael Jackson demonstrated outstanding professionalism in presenting the facts of their case. They methodically established the facts that, if properly summarized, can convict the defendant of involuntary manslaughter. They arrived to court prepared, and it showed.
Substantively, the prosecutors could have done three things better:
- Never allow the use of the term “sleep” when referring to anesthesia-induced coma, unconsciousness, or sedation. Correcting witnesses would consistently drive home the all-important point that the anesthetic propofol is not indicated for sleep. Conrad Murray used the medication in egregious violation of medical standards of care.
- Do not allow defense attorneys or witnesses to characterize Michael Jackson as an addict. Evidence in this case supports the notion that Michael Jackson had undertreated insomnia and anxiety, and he underwent dermatological procedures that required pain medication. The drug-seeking behaviors Michael Jackson demonstrated were to address his insomnia — a legitimate medical issue for which Conrad Murray failed to provide adequate care. To the extent that Michael Jackson may have been dependent on benzodiazepines or propofol, Conrad Murray was responsible because he prescribed and administered these medications to Jackson.
- Prepare the star expert better. Dr. Steven Shafer should have been familiar with the items found in Michael Jackson’s bedroom and closet, including the vented IV line. Additionally, when reconstructing Murray’s makeshift propofol infusion set-up, Shafer should have used a propofol bottle that matched the one investigators found in the IV bag.
Contrasted against the defense team’s lack of preparation and professionalism, the prosecution’s performance merits a grade even higher than a B.