Michael Jackson Trial Reaches Emotional Climax

By Sam Lansky 11/03/11

A jury will now decide whether the King of Pop's death was caused mainly by the negligence of his doctor, or by his own addictions.

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Which way will the jury go? Photo via

After six grueling weeks of testimony in a packed Los Angeles courtroom, the incredible trial of Michael Jackson's doctor has finally gone to the jury. In their closing argument on Wednesday, prosecutors argued that the pop star's doctor, Conrad Murray, “violated [a] sacred trust” with his patient, and should be held responsible for Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009. Jackson allegedly overdosed due to an overdose of propofol—the knock-you-on-your-ass surgical anesthetic that he had became dependent on to sleep. But Murray and his lawyers stubbornly maintained that Jackson’s death was a consequence of the star's long-time addictions, not of his physician's negligence. In the hours leading up to Jackson’s death, Murray also administered lorazepam and midazolam (Ativan and Versed, respectively) to help the Gloved One fall sleep—by any standard a hefty cocktail of sedatives for someone in Jackson’s frail condition. Prosecutors claim that Murray was distracted by personal matters on the morning of Jackson’s death, and did not correctly tend to his patient. Indeed Murray's cell phone records show that he was on the phone for most of the morning, and may not have  been in the room when Jackson overdosed.
But it’s hard to sympathize the dour doctor, who was paid $150,000 a month  to pump the pop star full of lethal meds. As Deputy District Attorney David Walgren reminded jurors: “For Michael’s children, this case will go on forever, because they do not have a father. They do not have a father because of the actions of Conrad Murray.” Several medical experts testified that propofol should only be utilized in a hospital setting, and administering it to Jackson in his bedroom was patently unethical—and there’s something deeply unsettling, if unsurprising, about the notion that Jackson's extreme wealth could buy him such easy access to that kind of hardcore painkiller. Murray faces four years behind bars and the loss of his medical license if convicted. Despite his $1.8 million-a-year salary, being Jacko’s paid enabler may end up carrying heavy consequences.

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Sam Lansky is the West Coast Editor at TIME. He has written for Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, The Atlantic, Grantland, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, OutBillboard and more. He is also the author of The Gilded Razor. You can find Sam on Linkedin and Twitter.