In the Courtroom
Week one was quite dramatic -- but why shouldn't it have been, we are in Hollywood! The prosecution wasted no time in captivating the attention of the jurors. The opening scene in their opening statement was a picture of Michael Jackson -- dead -- on a steel, grey gurney. They showed this powerful and shocking image next to a picture of Michael during rehearsal less than 24 hours earlier. Next, the prosecution used part of day one to establish Dr. Conrad Murray's motive for his alleged gross negligence (motive is not required in an involuntary manslaughter case, however, jurors always want to know "why"). The prosecution alleges that Dr. Conrad Murray was blinded by greed to the tune of $150,000 per month. Still, this is a far cry from the five million dollars he requested for compensation for his services. In fact, Dr. Murray wrote a letter to his patients informing them of his intention to leave his practice indefinitely because he was offered "a chance of a lifetime." After the motive was established, the prosecution brought on witness after witness detailing Dr. Murray's every action from the time he called Michael Williams (Michael Jackson's assistant) to tell him there was a problem, up until he was at the hospital and Michael Jackson was pronounced dead.
Throughout week one, there were numerous dramatic moments within the courtroom. Mrs. Jackson and Janet wiped away tears when photos of a dead Michael Jackson were shown. Everyone was captivated by the audio recording, taken by Dr. Murray on his iPhone, of Michael Jackson slurring his speech and sharing his deepest desires to build a Michael Jackson Hospital for Children, and to "wow" his fans with the This Is It production. The jurors also heard sad testimony from a couple of witnesses outlining how Prince and Paris were at their father's side screaming "daddy" as he lay motionless on the floor. The prosecution also used week one to show the "cover-up" Dr. Murray embarked upon prior to calling 911. Although Dr. Murray has not been charged with obstruction of justice, the prosecution is methodically presenting evidence through witnesses' testimony of Dr. Murray's attempts to discard evidence while Michael lay dead and his lies to paramedics at the scene and doctors in the hospital.
Week one was filled with tangential testimony about propofol, the drug "starring" in the drama. The prosecution stated the exorbitant amount of propofol Dr. Murray ordered over a three-month period. They spoke of the lie Dr. Murray told to the pharmacist instructing him to ship the propofol to his girlfriend's home address which the pharmacist believed was a medical office. They used witness testimony from attending paramedics and the emergency room doctor, to show that Dr. Murray never revealed that he administered propofol to Michael Jackson.
The defense used their opening statement to tell the world that Michael Jackson accidentally committed suicide: a shocking declaration to say the least. Thereafter, they tried to chip away at minor inconsistencies of the prosecution's witnesses but that is proved to be a difficult task. The prosecution's witnesses have come across likeable, believable and very well prepared.
Outside the Courtroom
There were approximately twenty Michael Jackson supporters still lining the walls on the ninth floor lobby. Most of these people were in the hallway by default. Many arrived as early as 6:30 a.m. to participate in a lottery in hopes of being one of a handful of spectators permitted access to the courtroom. The supports are watching the trial on their smartphones with newly created apps just for this trial. Others are watching the trials on their computers and iPads via news outlets' live streaming.
I spoke with Laura Sherwood who was lucky enough to sit in the courtroom for a couple of days. However, on this particular day, she was not so lucky. Laura is 25-year-old woman from Arizona. Laura felt obligated to come to this trial to show support for the Jackson family. She was not able to attend the child molestation trial in 2005, therefore, she felt that it was her "duty" to arrive in Los Angeles, without a job and without many friends -- outside of her fellow Michael Jackson fans she has met online. She saved up enough money to attend the trial and rent temporary housing. Laura plans to come to court everyday "until Murray's in jail," she says passionately.
Although Laura was in the ninth floor hallway this day, she still liked watching the trial on her smartphone with her earphone plugged into one ear. She said that she likes to sit in the hallway because there is less pressure than when she was inside the courtroom. She was very nervous in the courtroom because she was afraid her phone would go off, even though she checked and rechecked that it was powered down. She was also frustrated because she couldn't speak to anyone nor get up to use the bathroom. Yet, she admits that seeing the lawyers, the judge and the jurors first hand is still the best seat in the house.
Next, I also spoke with Holly Ann, a registered nurse originally from Kentucky. Holly is also a Michael Jackson fan, but unlike so many others there, she doesn't have many opportunities to come to the courthouse because of her work schedule. She was not selected in the lottery but she was awarded a standby ticket for the day. If someone leaves and a seat opens up in the courtroom, Holly Ann would be granted to the opportunity for which she woke up at 4 a.m.
As a nurse, Holly Ann is very interested in the case. She remembers working on her shift in a LA emergency room when word come that Michael Jackson was being transported to UCLA hospital. Not knowing any facts, she was appalled when some of her co-workers began to tease Michael Jackson and declare "that's what Wacko Jacko deserves." However, when Michael Jackson was pronounced dead, everyone was sad and confused -- the jeering and teasing ceased almost immediately.
I asked Holly about her experience with propofol. She stated that just the day prior, a 200 pound man was given 60 milligrams of propofol and he was instantly knocked out. What I found wonderfully interesting, is the fact that Michael Jackson's death changed the way propofol is administered in California hospitals. Prior to Michael's death, nurses under the supervision of doctors, could "push" the propofol. Now, according to Holly, ONLY medical doctors can administer propofol. From Holly's 20 years experience as a registered nurse, she knows that Dr. Murray story is not consistent with how propofol works. She asserts that it is impossible for Michael to have acted in a manner consistent with the defense's opening statement. "The whole thing stinks," she said. Holly wants Dr. Murray to go to jail and to have his medical license revoked although a small part of her still feels sorry for him. She concluded, "accidents have consequences."
On the Street
The crowd has lessened considerably over the first week. After day one, the police made the wise decision to separate Michael Jackson supporters from the Dr. Murray supporters with the walkway leading to the front doors. They also hung up yellow -- crime-scene-like -- plastic dividers to keep the supporters off of the sidewalk so that pedestrians could pass through. The media presence is still very strong with over 50 cameras on their stands and dozens of bored cameramen waiting until the morning break, lunch or the afternoon break for their on air talent to return.
Unlike day one, when the hordes of supporters waited on the sidewalk for hours with their feet in pain yet not wanting to depart from such a moment in Michael Jackson's continued monumental life story, many of the supporters have established a less painful system of support. Now, they wait outside for the family to arrive. They show their signs, t-shirts and banners to the media hoping to land on television. Then, they hustle inside to gather on the 9th floor until lunch time. Thereafter, they resume their positions behind the yellow plastic divider where they have lunch and wait for the second half of the day's courtroom production starring, Dr. Conrad Murray to begin.
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