By Michael Thurston ,AFP
LOS ANGELES — The fate of Michael Jackson’s doctor Conrad Murray could be decided Friday when jurors in his manslaughter trial start deliberating, after lawyers clashed at the climax of the high-profile case. The seven-man, five-woman jury were tasked with considering their verdict after prosecutors and defense lawyers wrapped up their closing arguments Thursday at the end of the six-week long trial in Los Angeles. The jurors are due to meet from 8:30 a.m. (1530 GMT), amid speculation that they will reach a quick verdict on the sole charge of involuntary manslaughter which Murray faces. Otherwise deliberations will continue next week. In a powerful summary Thursday, Deputy District Attorney David Walgren said the 58-year-old medic caused the star’s death through negligence and greed, depriving his children of their father and the world of a “genius.” Defense attorney Ed Chernoff then took the floor to claim that Murray was “a little fish in a big dirty pond,” alleging that key witnesses conspired to agree on a story after Jackson died at his LA mansion on June 25, 2009. Murray faces up to four years in jail and could lose the right to practice medicine if convicted over Jackson’s death from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol, combined with other sedatives administered to help him sleep. Walgren, summing up an “overwhelming case” against Murray, said the medic invented elaborate lies to cover his tracks — for example about the timeline on the day Jackson died, or not telling paramedics what drugs he had given. Murray above all wanted to protect his US$150,000 a month salary for looking after Jackson, Walgren said, describing how the doctor agreed to treat the star’s insomnia with the anesthetic propofol against all medical advice. “Conrad Murray in multiple instances deceived, lied, obscured, but more importantly, Conrad Murray acted with criminal negligence,” Walgren told the jury. The defense has argued that Jackson was a desperate drug addict who caused his own death by taking more medicines while Murray was out of the room at the star’s rented mansion in Los Angeles. Murray’s lawyer Chernoff hammered away at that theme in his closing argument — but also questioned the integrity of key witnesses including Jackson’s chief bodyguard Alberto Alvarez.
Alvarez, the first person to arrive in the bedroom where Jackson died, testified during the trial that he noticed a number of details, including a bottle of propofol inside a saline drip bag. Chernoff, referring dismissively to the “bottle in a bag” theory, suggested that Alvarez cooked it up with other witnesses, possibly to earn more money from media hungry for a good story. The defense lawyer also said that Jackson was under a huge amount of pressure from concert promoters AEG Live, who he suggested conspired to implicate Murray because it would deflect responsibility from them. “He was just a little fish in a big dirty pond,” he said of Murray, who had only been hired two months before Jackson’s death.