Nancy Grace should stick to dancing, because even though she looks like a clydesdale in high heels, she's a better dancer than attorney/legal analyst: Dr. Conrad Murray is a certifiable quack, but that doesn't mean he's guilty of manslaughter.
As everybody probably knows by now, the trial of the physician accused of causing Michael Jackson's death in June 2009 began Wednesday, and after only hearing the first few witnesses for the prosecution we have evidence that Dr. Murray didn't even know how CPR. Add that to the fact that the doctor didn't call 9-1-1 after finding Jackson unconscious, and that when he left the hospital after Jackson was pronounced dead, he made a strange request to Jackson's assistant to go back to the house to retrieve "some cream" from Jackson's bedroom. That evidence alone is probably sufficient to warrant taking away the doctor's medical license, but it doesn't make him guilty of involuntary manslaughter, which is defined in § 192 of the California Penal Code as:
Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. It is of three kinds:
(a) Voluntary — upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.
(b) Involuntary — in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to felony; or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection. This subdivision shall not apply to acts committed in the driving of a vehicle....
To put it in more certain terms, to prove that Dr. Murray is guilty of manslaughter, the prosecution must prove that the doctor caused the unlawful death of Michael Jackson. So far, the evidence has not shown causation, and based on the prosecution's opening statement—which is when they lay out their entire case for the jury, including what they believe the evidence will prove—there isn't any evidence that Conrad Murray caused Michael Jackson's death.
There shouldn't be any question that Conrad Murray was negligent, and that the care he rendered to Michael Jackson fell far below reasonable standards, but that is not causation. You can argue that if Dr. Murray hadn't supplied the propofol that ultimately stopped Michael Jackson from breathing, then Jackson would still be alive, and while this is possible, it doesn't mean that Dr. Murray caused the singer's death from a legal perspective (i.e. that he is criminally responsible for the death).
Please don't think I'm defending Conrad Murray. I am personally repulsed by his conduct, greed, and lack of integrity, but I am also annoyed that the taxpayers of the state of California are financing a costly trial so that an overzealous district attorney can have his fifteen minutes to try to become the next Marcia Clark. It's quite possible that the jury could convict Conrad Murray, and it wouldn't make me feel bad for him, but I would feel that our justice system failed us all.
Photo credit: Oceania Rock