Crime Time: Will a jury believe that Michael Jackson killed himself?
Our criminal courts columnist isn't totally on board with Dr. Conrad Murray's possible defense strategy ...
By Russell Wetanson
Like anyone else, I have my gullible moments. When I was a kid, I believed my parents when they told me a cat with big hind legs was a "cabbit" (a cross between a cat and a rabbit). I believed -- albeit briefly -- that Bill Clinton did not have sexual relations with that woman. And, let's face it, we've all believed a million different tabloid stories about the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson (my favorite being that he and La Toya were the same person).
So, why should this week be any different? With new theories surfacing about how Jackson died and who is responsible for his death, Dr. Conrad Murray's attorneys may be hoping it isn't — and that a jury has many more gullible moments.
As a reminder, Murray moved to Los Angeles last May to provide personal physician services to Jackson in the months leading up to and possibly throughout the entertainer's big comeback tour, "This Is It." Jackson died on June 25 and, on Feb. 8, Murray was arrested and arraigned in L.A. Superior Court for one count of involuntary manslaughter.
On Monday, he was in court accompanied by his defense team, attorneys Ed Chernoff and Michael Flanagan. Jackson family members -- including Janet, Katherine, Joe and Jermaine -- also attended the procedural hearing, during which the newly assigned Judge Michael Pastor: (1) refrained from ruling on any revocation of Murray's California medical license; and (2) set June 14 as the date when the preliminary hearing will be scheduled, despite pressure from Attorney General Jerry Brown's office to schedule an earlier date.
So, now that a date to set a date has been set, what will happen next?
Speculation and more speculation, of course. According to new reports, Murray's attorneys intend to argue that Jackson is responsible for his own death. Specifically, they will contend that while Murray quickly stepped out of the room where he had been administering propofol and numerous other drugs to Jackson throughout the fateful night, Jackson: (1) woke up; (2) became frustrated by his lack of sleep; and (3) injected himself with a lethal dose of propofol.
All of this allegedly happened within only two minutes, which is the length of time Murray previously told police he left the room to go to the bathroom. And if you buy that, Murray's lawyers will be recruiting you for jury service soon.
In all fairness, Murray's defense team is shooting down these reports. While they may deny this specific strategy (for now), there is no denying that they will blame Jackson for his own death in some way at both the preliminary hearing and the inevitable trial. Last June, Chernoff told "Good Morning America's" Diane Sawyer that Murray "just happened to find [Jackson] in his bed, and he wasn’t breathing. Mr. Jackson was still warm and had a pulse.” Then, in August, Chernoff told the L.A. Times that his client did not know which drugs Jackson might have been taking or whether he was addicted. He said of his client: "When he accepted the job, he was not aware of any specific requirements regarding medications that Michael Jackson was taking or any addictions that he was suffering from.” Chernoff said that it was only after Dr. Murray moved to Los Angeles that "he realized that Michael Jackson had some very unusual problems."
Realistically, this likely is the best strategy. They can paint Jackson as an addict who craved propofol (and other drugs) so much that he'd do anything to get his fix. They can portray him as so odd that anything is possible. All they need is one juror -- one juror who would find Jackson's alleged addiction at least as believable as every other story about him. They just need that one juror who believed his nose popped on and off, that he slept in a hyperbaric chamber, or that he collected the Elephant Man's bones.
Yeah, I know. At least one of these must be true. But, does that mean Jackson woke up while Murray was doing his business and injected himself with a lethal dose of propofol? To any juror who believes that, even I -- the person who once believed in "cabbits" -- say: Ch'mon!