"He's the greatest entertainer in the world. I'm taking that money, a million children, children's hospital, the biggest in the world, Michael Jackson's Children's Hospital..."
This last sentence taken from the haunting audio recording of Michael Jackson under the influence of "unknown agents" is a key element of the involuntary manslaughter case that the state of California is currently building against Dr. Conrad Murray. Hearing this voice cracked the door open for the jury into the private state of mind of the deceased and exposed the intimate knowledge that the accused had of his celebrity patient. The recording also presented a window of truth to the global humanitarian that Michael Jackson truly was. Would a man with these grand hopes and dreams actually risk taking his own life for a few hours of sleep?
It was shocking, disheartening and enraging for many to hear Jackson in such an eerie state of sedation. The slurred pattern of speech contrasted so sharply with his known vocal genius. Could that have even really been him? A tidal wave of emotion swept through the courtroom as Jackson's voice echoed in the hallowed halls of justice. Who was the person responsible for putting Michael Jackson into this dangerous state? Why did Conrad Murray covertly record this personal telephone conversation? What was the real power dynamic in this lethal physician and patient relationship? Why did everything go so horribly wrong on June 25, 2009?
The audio recording was a dramatic, yet effective focal point of deputy district attorney David Walgren's opening statement. Coupled with frantic 911 calls, voicemail recordings and cell phone records, collectively, the voices that emanated from Michael Jackson's home have begun to paint a very disturbing picture of the defendant and timeline of events. They reveal the ill-fated decisions of a man who acted repeatedly with a consciousness of guilt as he abandoned his patient in a desperate attempt to cover-up his negligent acts. Although painful to listen to, it was Jackson's voice that was the first bold brushstroke needed for the messy portrait that is now taking shape right before our eyes.
With each new hour of testimony, it is becoming clearer that a once strong man was gradually rendered powerless in the hands of a greedy, unethical and highly unprepared enabler. The prosecution's evidence and witnesses have successfully started to demonstrate that Dr. Conrad Murray repeatedly acted with gross negligence through multiple and extreme deviations from the proper standards of medical care.
As the audio recording so vividly reveals, Murray had knowledge of Jackson's career motivations as well as his mental and physical states in the months prior to his death. Even while heavily sedated, Jackson revealed his underlying rationale for pursuing what may have been the most grueling professional endeavor of his life. Michael Jackson's words indicated that he wanted to make history for the sole purpose of helping children.
Even with this knowledge, Conrad Murray continued to deceptively stockpile and feed his patient excessive and ultimately deadly amounts of sedatives and propofol. As a medical professional, did Murray truly believe giving Michael Jackson all of these drugs would help him be "the greatest entertainer in the world?" It is highly unlikely. Did he really think that Michael Jackson would ever be able to create the children's hospital of his dreams if he continually plied him with debilitating substances? Probably not. Or, was he just acting like an employee aiming to please his employer in order to keep a steady $150,000 per month paycheck rolling into his bank account? Definitely, yes.
The defense's far-fetched theory that Jackson self-administered a highly lethal combination of sedatives and propofol behind Dr. Murray's back is also undercut by the audio recording. Depicted as seemingly forward thinking, it is clear that Michael Jackson had too many goals he wanted to accomplish and too much that he wanted to give back to the world. Why would he then risk taking his life into his own hands? Could he have even killed himself in the manner that the defense described in their opening statement? Ultimately, this case may boil down to a battle of the experts who will debate whether the "perfect storm" theory of Michael Jackson's instantaneous death really holds any merit. It already looks weak on its face.
Through a close examination of Jackson's cultural legacy, it is clear that he always strove to serve a humanitarian purpose through his work. He gave millions of dollars to charity throughout his life. Therefore, it is not a stretch to believe that all he wanted to do was accomplish that objective again but now on the largest scale possible. As his voice reveals, the intentions were grand, yet also singular in their focus. Jackson likely believed that the "This Is It" concert series would help him travel to the furthest possible point on the road of his lifelong humanitarian dream. He trusted Dr. Conrad Murray, as his personal physician, to help him arrive at his destination safely. As the evidence presented so far in the trial indicates, Murray failed miserably in that task.
Whatever the verdict in this case will be, perhaps the world will eventually notice how much potential good was cut short by this avoidable tragedy. Michael Jackson's voice and all the other voices of this dramatic tale are starting to ring true. They are telling the story of a doctor intoxicated by celebrity and lured by money who all but abandoned acceptable standards of medical practice and professional ethics to serve his personal needs. As prosecutor David Walgren argued, it was the "acts and omissions" of Dr. Conrad Murray that led Michael Jackson, his only patient, to a "premature death at age 50."
As the morbid image of a lifeless Jackson laying on a hospital gurney and labeled "Homicide," spread virally around the world, it became burned into the public's consciousness and will never be forgotten. Understandably sickening to many, the dreary image also serves as an extremely powerful symbol and stark reminder that in Michael Jackson's valiant attempt to save the lives of others, this wounded messenger unnecessarily lost his own bright future. Finally, the voices of justice are saying that this should have never happened to such a man.
UPDATE: I was interviewed Thursday, Oct. 6 on truTV's show In Session in connection with this piece:
This article also appears in the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait Magazine http://www.mjtpmagazine.presspublisher.us/, a publication of the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait http://www.michaeljacksontributeportrait.com/
Follow Matt Semino on Twitter @MattSemino.
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