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Jury Begins Deliberating Fate Of Jackson's Doctor

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Lawyers have given their closing arguments in the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson. The jury begins deliberations Friday.


Here in Los Angeles, jurors are set to begin deliberations today in the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor. Dr. Conrad Murray is being charged with involuntary manslaughter for his role in Jackson's death. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates watched closing arguments yesterday and has this report.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES, BYLINE: Judge Michael Pastor strode into his downtown courtroom on time, as usual, and immediately addressed his jurors.


JUDGE MICHAEL PASTOR: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Hopefully you had a productive day off yesterday, and once again thank you for accommodating us.

BATES: Linda Deutsch, special correspondent for the Associated Press, says jurors work well with the judge because they appreciated his respect for them.

LINDA DEUTSCH: He's established a great rapport with the jury. They respond to him, they smile at him. He had promised them the case was going to be over in five weeks. And as it turned out, it took six weeks to finish the testimony, and with their deliberations, it may go into a seventh week.

BATES: After the judge's instructions, Deputy District Attorney David Walgren began. Speaking calmly and confidently, Walgren told jurors that Michael Jackson's personal physician was responsible for the singer's death. If he'd remained true to the ethics of his medical training, Walgren said, the doctor could not have agreed to dose Jackson with an assortment of sedatives and the powerful anesthetic propofol.


DAVID WALGREN: The doctor is the one in the relationship who, at the end of the day, makes the decision as to what is proper medical care and what is in the well-being of the patient.

BATES: Walgren noted that Jackson assumed the doctor would safely attend to his medical needs.


WALGREN: He trusted him with his own individual life and the future lives of his children.

BATES: Walgren said Jackson trusted his doctor to help him sleep soundly and expected he'd then awaken and be able to have breakfast with his three young children. It was, the prosecutor said, a misplaced trust.


WALGREN: And for that, Michael Jackson paid with his life.

LAURIE LEVENSON: I'm thinking that the prosecution has put together a pretty solid case here.

BATES: Laurie Levenson teaches criminal law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and is a former federal prosecutor.

LEVENSON: And the focus of this case is that Michael Jackson's doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray, breached the trust, breached his duty as a doctor, acted with extreme negligence, and that this death didn't have to occur.

BATES: But defense lawyer Ed Chernoff told jurors Jackson's dependence on pharmaceuticals didn't begin with Conrad Murray. Then he launched into star prosecution witness Dr. Steven Shafer, claiming the propofol expert's testimony, hugely damaging to the defense, was tailored to satisfy the prosecution.


ED CHERNOFF: It is easy, in hindsight, to sit up and point the finger at your colleague and say whatever the prosecution wants you to say.

BATES: That's something David Walgren would take angry exception to during the prosecution's final rebuttal.

Defense attorney Chernoff told jurors Jackson's celebrity was at least part of the reason they were all in the courtroom, and asked them to try to judge the doctor on the evidence, not the stature of the deceased.


CHERNOFF: If you're going to hold Dr. Murray responsible, don't do it because it's Michael Jackson. This is not a reality show. It's reality. And the decisions you make isn't making good TV, it's how it affects real human beings.

BATES: Jurors will get to ponder that and more as they begin deliberations Friday morning.

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

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