A Los Angeles defense attorney, whose commentaries on the Conrad Murray trial can be heard over NBC-4 Television, sees problems in the way the physician is being prosecuted and, hence, in the way Black Americans are perceiving the facts of the case.
Attorney Dermot Givens’ own assessment is that the trial is not fair.
He asks why Murray is the only physician being charged with a crime when other physicians were clearly involved in prescribing powerful drugs for Michael Jackson.
To most Americans, the answer seems relatively clear: Murray was the physician who was in charge of the Pop icon’s care at the time of his death, and some of his medical practices are being exposed as unusual, even dangerous.
But Givens maintains that in many cases, prosecutors go after everyone involved on whatever level and leave it for the court to decide which persons are culpable in the crime.”You don’t have to be the only one doing it to be charged with a crime,” he says. “If they wanted to they could have charged all the doctors.”
He cites the Anna Nicole Smith case as an example. In this instance, several doctors were charged. With Jackson, Givens says medicine from Dr. Arnold Klein was found in Michael’s home. [In fact, the defense has charged that Klein was partly responsible for Jackson’s death, since Klein was giving him Demerol shots in the last weeks of his life.]
Murray was the last man standing, says Givens, but that in itself is not a crime, nor was the use of the drug propofol. “It’s not a level playing field,” he says.
Givens says when the coroner’s investigation turned from simply a death investigation under county authority into a homicide investigation under the city, the LAPD chose not to investigate the other doctors.
So Givens asks, “Where is the fairness? Where are the civil rights and community leaders? Why did African Americans rush to judge Murray guilty before the trial? Why are we rooting for the prosecutors in their prosecution of a Black man. Have we learned nothing?
“The Jackson family deserves to know the truth about what happened to Michael. And the truth, the whole truth, does not start or end with whether Dr. Murray is guilty, unless you want to believe the prosecutors.”
Givens says the Jackson family needs to know what happened and how Michael died, including the involvement of AEG, the entertainment conglomerate with which Jackson signed a contract.
“The trial is about Dr. Murray and only Dr. Murray,” said Givens. “But he wasn’t the person who first gave Jackson propofol or the only doctor treating Michael Jackson. They’ve [the Jackson family] been told by the prosecutors that they’re going to get Dr. Murray, but the family has also accused AEG. AEG made the statement that he’s healthy. They’re the ones that were supposed to pay for Michael’s medical care, and they’re the ones who had insurance on Michael Jackson’s life. So weren’t they responsible for his health?
“The experience of most African Americans with the criminal justice system has not been one where we can trust prosecutors to find truth. That’s our history.”
Givens believes when it comes to Black men, prosecutors don’t care whom they get. “Anybody they can get,” he says. “Line them up.”
“You’ve got Black folk cheering for the prosecutors,” he says. “I don’t get that. From Geronimo Pratt to all the people getting out [of prison] because of DNA, they don’t care; from the disparity of crack cocaine against regular powdered cocaine, they weren’t seeking truth and justice. They were seeking Black folk.”
However, Givens allows that some may argue that the issue of whether the prosecution cares about the deceased is irrelevant. Their responsibility is to prosecute the guilty to the extent of the law.
Givens criticism also extends to the media, which he believes turned on Jackson.
“Before he died Michael was the most vilified person in America,” Given says. “Now that he’s dead the media are back to building him up posthumously.”
“We loved Michael Jackson, but is it more important to blame someone to protect the image of the icon?” Givens asks. “Is our fantasy greater than our reality? We loved the image of Michael Jackson, but we didn’t know Michael Jackson. His death makes us confront the conflict of being a fan, believing we knew and loved him as opposed to the King of Pop being an unreal character that was played by Michael Jackson, the man. It’s a question as to whether his family even knew him. Their only anger is at Dr. Murray, because they’re not going to get mad at Michael. Is holding onto the image of the icon more important than the life of Dr. Conrad Murray?”
Givens says it is important to hold off any rush to judgment. He agrees that Michael had some quirky–and dangerous–ideas about his treatments, including propofol, other drugs, oxygen chambers and other things that seem questionable.
“Michael was in control of this and everybody was going along with it,” he says. “AEG had to have known [about his health]. Everybody would have known. The one thing Michael did not do was go get the best medical care. If he had walked into UCLA or the Mayo Clinic, they would have given him all sorts of tests. He had the money. Why didn’t he do it? Why didn’t AEG do it? They were making millions of dollars of investments into this man. Why didn’t they do it?
“They’re [AEG] the ones who had the contract with Dr. Murray, so they had some control. The insurance company seeking medical records was calling AEG, not Dr. Murray. You can’t have it both ways. On the one hand, AEG said Michael Jackson was extremely healthy, but on the other hand they weren’t providing medical records. Either he was healthy or he wasn’t.
“Dr. Murray has not been paid a dime,” Givens says. “People are saying that Dr. Murray should have gotten this [medical] equipment, but it wasn’t his position to get the equipment. The contract for $150,000 a month was supposed to start when they got to London. Michael may have paid him something separately, but I guarantee you it wasn’t $150,000 a month. In fact, that was his [Murray’s] incentive to have Michael Jackson live. He had every incentive in the world to have MJ live.” [Calls to AEG were not returned.]