LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Jackson “paid with his life” for the criminal negligence of his personal doctor, prosecutors told a Los Angeles jury on Thursday, but defense lawyers said there was no evidence any crime was committed in the singer’s 2009 death.
In closing arguments after a six-week trial, attorneys for Dr. Conrad Murray said prosecutors were trying to blame the physician for Jackson’s own actions.
“For a crime to be proved, the prosecution have to show that Dr. Murray actually killed Michael Jackson,” defense attorney Ed Chernoff told the jury.
“They want you to convict Dr. Murray for the actions of Michael Jackson,” Chernoff said, adding, “If it were anybody else but Michael Jackson, would this doctor be here today?”
Chernoff asked the jury to forget that the victim was a famous pop star.
“If you are going to hold Dr. Murray responsible, don’t do it because it’s Michael Jackson. This is not a reality show. This is reality.”
Murray, who was hired to care for Jackson as he prepared for a series of planned comeback concerts, has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He did not testify at the trial and could face up to four years in prison if convicted.
Jackson was found lifeless at his Los Angeles mansion on June 25, 2009, age 50. He was later ruled to have died from an overdose of propofol, which is normally used in surgery, and sedatives.
The jury is expected to be given the case later on Thursday or on Friday.
The defense argued at trial the singer was dependent on propofol. Desperate to sleep, he likely gave himself a fatal dose of the powerful anesthetic, as well as swallowing a handful of sedatives, without Murray’s knowledge, defense lawyers argued.
But in his closing argument, prosecutor David Walgren slammed that theory, calling the scenario presented at trial by a key defense expert “junk science” and “garbage science.”
Walgren said Murray abandoned Jackson on the morning he died, delayed calling 911, and deceived medical personnel on his use of propofol in a bedroom setting.
Murray violated the trust between doctor and patient “and for that Michael Jackson paid with his life,” Walgren said.
“The evidence in this case is abundantly clear — that Conrad Murray acted with criminal negligence, that Conrad Murray caused the death of Michael Jackson, that Conrad Murray left Prince, Paris and Blanket without a father,” the prosecutor said, referring to the singer’s three young children.
Chernoff said the defense was not disputing negligence on Murray’s part. “We would not dispute Dr. Murray never made mistakes,” he said on Thursday.
But he added that Murray’s actions did not amount to criminal negligence and were not the direct cause of Jackson’s death.
Judge Michael Pastor told jurors on Thursday they could convict Murray even if Jackson may have contributed to his own death, if they believed the physician failed to use reasonable care to prevent that outcome.
Pastor said the jury could find Murray not guilty if it believed his actions on the day of Jackson’s death were accidental.
Walgren reminded the jury that phone record evidence showed Murray was busy with personal matters for about 40 minutes after the physician said he gave the singer a small dose of propofol toward the end of a sleepless night.
Chernoff said, however, that Murray could have been by Jackson’s bedside while on the phone, or near the singer’s side and keeping an eye on him, before he realized he had stopped breathing.
Walgren said Murray had abandoned the singer that morning. “Conrad Murray gave him propofol and abandoned him. Conrad Murray is criminally liable. Justice demands a guilty verdict,” he said.
Editing by Jill Serjeant and Peter Cooney