Jury Begins Deliberating Fate Of Jackson's Doctor

Nov 4, 2011
Originally published on November 4, 2011 9:20 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Here in Los Angeles, jurors are set to begin deliberations today in the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor. Dr. Conrad Murray is being charged with involuntary manslaughter for his role in Jackson's death. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates watched closing arguments yesterday and has this report.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES, BYLINE: Judge Michael Pastor strode into his downtown courtroom on time, as usual, and immediately addressed his jurors.

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BATES: Linda Deutsch, special correspondent for the Associated Press, says jurors work well with the judge because they appreciated his respect for them.

LINDA DEUTSCH: He's established a great rapport with the jury. They respond to him, they smile at him. He had promised them the case was going to be over in five weeks. And as it turned out, it took six weeks to finish the testimony, and with their deliberations, it may go into a seventh week.

BATES: After the judge's instructions, Deputy District Attorney David Walgren began. Speaking calmly and confidently, Walgren told jurors that Michael Jackson's personal physician was responsible for the singer's death. If he'd remained true to the ethics of his medical training, Walgren said, the doctor could not have agreed to dose Jackson with an assortment of sedatives and the powerful anesthetic propofol.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRIAL)

BATES: Walgren noted that Jackson assumed the doctor would safely attend to his medical needs.

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BATES: Walgren said Jackson trusted his doctor to help him sleep soundly and expected he'd then awaken and be able to have breakfast with his three young children. It was, the prosecutor said, a misplaced trust.

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LAURIE LEVENSON: I'm thinking that the prosecution has put together a pretty solid case here.

BATES: Laurie Levenson teaches criminal law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and is a former federal prosecutor.

LEVENSON: And the focus of this case is that Michael Jackson's doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray, breached the trust, breached his duty as a doctor, acted with extreme negligence, and that this death didn't have to occur.

BATES: But defense lawyer Ed Chernoff told jurors Jackson's dependence on pharmaceuticals didn't begin with Conrad Murray. Then he launched into star prosecution witness Dr. Steven Shafer, claiming the propofol expert's testimony, hugely damaging to the defense, was tailored to satisfy the prosecution.

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BATES: That's something David Walgren would take angry exception to during the prosecution's final rebuttal.

Defense attorney Chernoff told jurors Jackson's celebrity was at least part of the reason they were all in the courtroom, and asked them to try to judge the doctor on the evidence, not the stature of the deceased.

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BATES: Jurors will get to ponder that and more as they begin deliberations Friday morning.

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.