A Scapegoat for the King’s Death

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On June 25th 2009, Michael Jackson was confirmed dead as a result of ‘acute propofol intoxication’. This announcement shocked and stunned his worldwide army of fans and all those who valued the singer for his incredible musical talent and his invaluable contribution to the music industry.

Two years on, this grief has turned into anger and demands for justice. On November 7th 2011, Conrad Murray, Michael’s personal doctor, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and taken into custody without the option of bail, a verdict which was met with applause outside the courtroom.

Freedom of speech should, of course, be valued and respected; nevertheless Conrad Murray was condemned by the public before the jury was even close to giving a verdict.

I feel that many of those who quietly or openly condemned him did so in response to their need to have someone to blame, a villain in this case responsible for the death of their star, rather than a response to the actual facts of the case.

Firstly I must state my position as a Michael Jackson fan. My brother and I from a young age used to attempt to moonwalk around the house with ‘Billy Jean’ or ‘Streetwalker’ blaring in the background, something I’ll admit we still do today and remain unsuccessful at. I even had tickets to go see Michael perform at the O2, an unrealised dream to see the King of Pop perform in the flesh.

I therefore was amongst the grievers when I heard of his death; despite this, I don’t feel an intense craving for revenge or justice.  Jackson’s erratic behaviour and reliance on drugs raised many doubts about his ability to perform all the dates scheduled.

Towards the end of his life Jackson was in a state of financial ruin and, despite not having performed for years, these fifty shows would have acted not only as his final farewell to fans, but also lifted him out of his financial difficulties. This Is It, the title of his concerts, was a final and crucial ending to Jackson’s career.

This extreme pressure that Jackson was under was transferred to his doctor Conrad Murray whose job it was to ensure that Jackson was fit and able to practice, and ultimately to perform.

On the night of his death it was stated that Jackson could not sleep, a recurring problem for him and that he was complaining that without sleep he would be unable to perform. It is reported that Murray administered lorazepam and midazolam, sedatives to help Jackson sleep.

Jackson remained awake and Murray allegedly then administered 25mg of propofal. The prosecution identified that no proper medical measuring apparatus was found within the room, suggesting Murray guessed the measurements and likely gave him too much propofal.

If these events are true they show negligence on Murray’s part.  He was accused of demonstrating extreme deviations from the standard of care expected between a patient and a doctor. Michael Jackson was still human and therefore still susceptible to extreme reactions to drugs, he was not invincible like his 2001 album title suggests.

History is littered with individuals taking lethal doses of sleeping pills or sedatives, Heath Ledger and Marilyn Monroe to name a few, all who complained of insomnia. Celebrity culture places these individuals under such extreme and unnatural stress and pressure to perform. You only have to listen to Jackson’s songs ‘Privacy’ and ‘Leave Me Alone’ to see an individual under intense scrutiny, who was loved but also hounded by the press and public.

This was the situation which Murray inherited and was charged with dealing with. I’m not claiming he is innocent, in fact I do believe he showed negligence and should have been able to say no to Jackson’s supposed demands for more drugs.

At the same time it is clear that somebody had to take the blame for Jackson’s death to satisfy the public’s need for justice,;as the defence stated, if Michael Jackson hadn’t been the victim this case would have never made it to court.

Conrad Murray will be sentenced on the 29th November; due to prison overcrowding it is unlikely that he will serve much, if any, jail time.

He will undoubtedly suffer the same fate as Michael Jackson did after his own trial and will be hounded and persecuted by those determined of his guilt.

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