Saturday, November 5, 2011

Commentary on the Conrad Murray Trial By Matt Semino

Conrad Murray Trial: Jane Velez-Mitchell, Matt Semino, Marcia Clark Talk Closing Arguments (11-3-11)


  Interview with IN SESSION'S Christi Paul on Strength of the Prosecution's Case (11/3/11)
Video One


Video Two 


Video Three


Video Four



 Conrad Murray Trial: Dr. Paul White Cross-Examination Discussed by Christi Paul and Matt Semino (11/1/11)


 IN SESSION with Christ Paul (10/24/11)


IN SESSION: Parts 1 (10/20/11)


IN SESSION: Part 2 (10/20/11)


IN SESSION: Part 3 (10/20/11)


IN SESSION: Part 4 (10/20/11)


Conrad Murray Trial: HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell Interviews Attorney Matt Semino (10-19-11)


IN SESSION: Part 1 (10/17/11)


IN SESSION: Part 2 (10/17/11)


IN SESSION: Part 3 (10/17/11)


IN SESSION Interview with Christi Paul (10-6-11)


  Conrad Murray and the Voices That Ring True

“He’s the greatest entertainer in the world.  I’m taking that money, a million children, children’s hospital, the biggest in the world, Michael Jackson’s Children’s Hospital…”

This last sentence taken from the haunting audio recording of Michael Jackson under the influence of “unknown agents” is a key element of the involuntary manslaughter case that the state of California is currently building against Dr. Conrad Murray. Hearing this voice cracked the door open for the jury into the private state of mind of the deceased and exposed the intimate knowledge that the accused had of his celebrity patient. The recording also presented a window of truth to the global humanitarian that Michael Jackson truly was. Would a man with these grand hopes and dreams actually risk taking his own life for a few hours of sleep?  
It was shocking, disheartening, and enraging for many to hear Jackson in such an eerie state of sedation. The slurred pattern of speech contrasted so sharply with his known vocal genius. Could that have even really been him? A tidal wave of emotion swept through the courtroom as Jackson's voice echoed in the hallowed halls of justice. Who was the person responsible for putting Michael Jackson into this dangerous state? Why did Conrad Murray covertly record this personal telephone conversation? What was the real power dynamic in this lethal physician and patient relationship? Why did everything go so horribly wrong on June 25, 2009?

The audio recording was a dramatic, yet effective focal point of deputy district attorney David Walgren’s opening statement. Coupled with frantic 911 calls, voicemail recordings and cell phone records, collectively, the voices that emanated from Michael Jackson's home have begun to paint a very disturbing picture of the defendant and timeline of events. They reveal the ill-fated decisions of a man who acted repeatedly with a consciousness of guilt as he abandoned his patient in a desperate attempt to cover up his negligent acts. Although painful to listen to, it was Jackson's voice that was the first bold brushstroke needed for the messy portrait that is now taking shape right before our eyes.

With each new hour of testimony, it is becoming clearer that a once strong man was gradually rendered powerless in the hands of a greedy, unethical, and highly unprepared enabler. The prosecution's evidence and witnesses have successfully started to demonstrate that Dr. Conrad Murray repeatedly acted with gross negligence through multiple and extreme deviations from the proper standards of medical care.

As the audio recording so vividly reveals, Murray had knowledge of Jackson’s career motivations, as well as his mental and physical states, in the months prior to his death. Even while heavily sedated, Jackson revealed his underlying rationale for pursuing what may have been the most grueling professional endeavor of his life. Michael Jackson’s words indicated that he wanted to make history for the sole purpose of helping children.

Even with this knowledge, Conrad Murray continued to deceptively stockpile and feed his patient excessive and ultimately deadly amounts of sedatives and propofol. As a medical professional, did Murray truly believe giving Michael Jackson all of these drugs would help him be "the greatest entertainer in the world"? It is highly unlikely. Did he really think that Michael Jackson would ever be able to create the children's hospital of his dreams if he continually plied him with debilitating substances? Probably not. Or, was he just acting like an employee aiming to please his employer, in order to keep a steady $150,000 per month paycheck rolling into his bank account? Definitely, yes.

The defense’s far-fetched theory that Jackson self-administered a highly lethal combination of sedatives and propofol behind Dr. Murray's back is also undercut by the audio recording. Depicted as seemingly forward thinking, it is clear that Michael Jackson had too many goals he wanted to accomplish and too much that he wanted to give back to the world. Why would he then risk taking his life into his own hands?  Could he have even killed himself in the manner that the defense described in their opening statement?  Ultimately, this case may boil down to a battle of the experts who will debate whether the “perfect storm” theory of Michael Jackson's instantaneous death really holds any merit. It already looks weak on its face.

Through a close examination of Jackson’s cultural legacy, it is clear that he always strove to serve a humanitarian purpose through his work. He gave millions of dollars to charity throughout his life. Therefore, it is not a stretch to believe that all he wanted to do was accomplish that objective again, but now on the largest scale possible. As his voice reveals, the intentions were grand, yet also singular in their focus. Jackson likely believed that the “This Is It” concert series would help him travel to the furthest possible point on the road of his lifelong humanitarian dream. He trusted Dr. Conrad Murray, as his personal physician, to help him arrive at his destination safely. As the evidence presented so far in the trial indicates, Murray failed miserably in that task.

Whatever the verdict in this case will be, perhaps the world will eventually notice how much potential good was cut short by this avoidable tragedy. Michael Jackson's voice and all the other voices of this dramatic tale are starting to ring true. They are telling the story of a doctor intoxicated by celebrity and lured by money, who all but abandoned acceptable standards of medical practice and professional ethics to serve his personal needs. As prosecutor David Walgren argued, it was the “acts and omissions” of Dr. Conrad Murray that led Michael Jackson, his only patient, to a “premature death at age 50”.  As the morbid image of a lifeless Jackson laying on a hospital gurney and labeled "Homicide", spread virally around the world, it became burned into the public's consciousness and will never be forgotten.  Understandably sickening to many, the dreary image also serves as an extremely powerful symbol and stark reminder that in Michael Jackson's valiant attempt to save the lives of others, this wounded messenger unnecessarily lost his own bright future. Finally, the voices of justice are saying that this should have never happened to such a man.
IN SESSION's Interview with Attorney Matt Semino on the Dr. Conrad Murray Trial (9-27-11)


Defending the Victim in the Conrady Murray Trial

Should Michael Jackson be blamed for his own death? Jury selection is underway and opening statements are set to commence in the Dr. Conrad Murray involuntary manslaughter trial. International headlines are shouting, “Michael Jackson drank propofol moments before he died!” These questionable pronouncements allude to the defense theory that Murray’s legal team is expected to soon present in a Los Angeles courtroom. Symptoms of a “blame the victim” syndrome are already showing. 

While sensational, it should be of no surprise that Murray’s lawyers may argue that Michael Jackson took his own life by either injecting himself with propofol or ingesting it. Story-making is surely nothing new when it comes to the King of Pop. Turning the tables on the voiceless is also now in vogue with high-profile criminal defendants. It worked for Casey Anthony, why shouldn’t it also work for Conrad Murray?  While “blaming the victim” may be a tempting and ultimately effective defense strategy, it is morally suspect when based in fabrication and driven by unsubstantiated factual claims. 

Although attorneys are charged with representing their client’s best interests in court, ethical boundaries can be crossed in their dogged pursuit of that goal. As seen before, a clever defense lawyer can twist scraps of evidence, public perception, and ingrained social stereotypes about a victim and the alleged crime into a convoluted narrative that lacks any element of truth. This unscrupulous practice can become the legal weapon of choice when the only objective is to place just a shred of reasonable doubt in the mind of one impressionable juror. It is a weapon that can be lethal if taken too far, denigrating the victim with each cut and ultimately corroding justice to its bone. 

The Casey Anthony saga is just one recent, glaring example of where such defense tactics went overboard in the courtroom. Anthony’s legal team introduced an outlandish explanation of the victim’s cause of death and leveled severe accusations at family members during their opening statement. All of their distorted claims eventually went uncorroborated during the trial. In the process, the victim’s memory was soiled and witnesses’ reputations were destroyed under the guise of an impassioned client defense.  The judicial process is only cheapened when such machinations run unchecked in a court of law. The Conrad Murray trial also risks running amok if precaution is ignored. 

While millions of trial observers thought Anthony’s defense theory was pure fantasy, it stuck in the minds of the jurors who ultimately acquitted her. As Casey Anthony enjoys her freedom, Caylee Marie Anthony will never able to tell us whether she actually climbed up that ladder into the pool and drowned. Her cause of death remains a mystery. Similarly, Michael Jackson will also never be able to tell us how he departed from this earth. When it is only the words of the accused against the silence of the deceased, who is there to defend the victim from false accusation and innuendo?

While it may become easy for some to forget, Dr. Conrad Murray is currently the individual on trial, not Michael Jackson. Use of the same Machiavellian strategies that were employed to defend Casey Anthony will need to be corralled and monitored vigilantly by judge, jury, and the viewing public, as the Murray case proceeds. The disastrous obfuscation of truth that occurred in Orlando only a few months ago can be prevented from repeating itself in Judge Michael Pastor’s courtroom.

Unfortunately, Murray’s legal team seems to have already taken more than a few pages from Jose Baez’s playbook. In several pretrial hearings, it became evident that Murray’s attorneys had intently studied the dynamics of the Anthony trial and the procedural factors that would ensure a favorable outcome for their client. They referenced the global media attention that the Anthony proceedings garnered and the potentially harmful influence of commentary from legal pundits as a way to rationalize sequestering jurors and preventing the trial from being televised. Judge Pastor made the intelligent decision to deny these requests, which would have placed unreasonable restrictions on the freedom of the public, press, and jury.  Complete transparency is one positive step toward preserving the rights of the victim during this trial.  

If Conrad Murray’s legal team is planning to use a “blame the victim” defense strategy, their opening statement and witness questioning will likely conflate negative perceptions and stereotypes of Michael Jackson into a twisted theory of death. Attempts were already made by Murray’s attorneys to drag Jackson’s financial affairs, physical and mental health, as well as past legal battles into the vortex of controversy. Witnesses were expected to testify for the defense on these salacious and highly irrelevant topics.  Judge Pastor wisely ruled to exclude many of these witnesses, arguing that their testimony lacked sufficient probative value in addressing the primary legal questions of the case. A thorough examination of Dr. Conrad Murray’s medical practices, ethical choices, and standard of care is what really needs to take center stage in a court of law at this time. Michael Jackson’s past has no legitimate place in this present trial. 
Asserting the appropriate element of judicial control through the pretrial phase, Judge Pastor has made a strong effort to prevent the impending court proceedings from devolving into a tawdry examination of Michael Jackson through unnecessary character assassination. He has attempted to act fairly toward both sides while also standing firmly to protect the victim. Pastor will continue to play a pivotal role in the coming weeks by ensuring that the prosecution and the defense act within the boundaries of professional ethics and follow proper trial procedure. It is also imperative that he clearly impress upon the jury their important role, responsibility, and obligation in seeking the truth even through all of the smoke and mirrors. 

Ultimately, it will be up to members of the jury to keep all that is stated at trial by the prosecution and particularly the defense, in its proper perspective. Inflated proclamations are just hot air if not grounded in provable facts. Jurors shouldn’t be distracted by such hyperbole. They must think critically and logically about whether the hard evidence that is presented in court actually comports with the claims made by the lawyers in their opening statements and witness questioning. It is only then that justice can be properly served without the victim ever being victimized again. 

© Valmai Owens, 2011. All Rights Reserved.
No reproduction without permission from author.

This article appears in the publication Dot to Dot: Keeping Michael’s Legacy Alive, and its content is the property of the authors and the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait. Articles and exclusive interviews are copyrighted; therefore there should be no republication without permission. You may email with any requests for republication. If permission is given, credit must be given to the author, Dot to Dot: Keeping Michael's Legacy Alive and the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait.

No comments:

Post a Comment