Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Convicting Jackson's Doc In The Media
"Doctor Death" is the headline on the front page of today's New York Post.
The Daily News goes further with a headline that screams "The Doc Did It."
Why even dispense with a trial? Let's save the taxpayer's a lot of money by simply letting the media declare Michael Jackson's personal physician guilty of his death. After all, the LA medical examiner has ruled his demise a homicide. And we know that the cops have been checking the doctor's medical records. He's obviously a "person of interest" if not a "target" or a "suspect" in the investigation.
The Daily News goes so far as to list "some of the sedatives" that it says Dr. Conrad Murray "administered" to Michael Jackson when he complained he couldn't sleep. It even lists the times. According to the News, Murray gave Jackson Valium at 1:30 AM, Lorazepam at 2, Midazolam at 3 and Propofol at 10:40.
The paper quotes a detective's affidavit which concludes Murray gave Jackson "lethal levels" of Propofol. The story then dutifully reports that Murray "has not been charged" but adds that it is "likely that Murray could soon face charges."
The Post, and I presume countless other newspapers across the nation, reports similarly, quoting one source familiar with the report as saying the Propofol interacted with the other sedatives to put Jackson into a "fatal coma."
But the one thing that's really missing from all this breathless reporting, much of it based on the actual record, is that these are just allegations. Allegations that may or may not be introduced as evidence in a trial if Murray is ultimately charged. And if they are, they won't just be presented in the newspaper with no retort. Unless he pleads out, Murray would mount a defense. And sometimes things come out during trials that upset the prosecutorial apple cart.
I'm not defending Dr. Murray here. I have no way of knowing whether he is guilty as declared by the media. But I do know that it's dangerous to declare that "The Doc Did It" - especially when he's not been charged by prosecutors.
Another high profile case comes to mind. That of the media persecution of Richard Jewell, who was a "person of interest" following the Centennial Park Olympic bombing in Atlanta. Jewell, a security guard at the park, thrust himself into the limelight after discovering a pipe bomb and helping to evacuate people before it went off. He seemingly craved attention - so much so that the agents investigating the bombing started focusing on him. Painting a picture of a wanna be cop using the bombing as a way to market his police-like prowess in an attempt to get a job in law enforcement.
The media then all but convicted Jewell of the bombing. The previously obscure figure's name was known to most Americans. He was the guy, many thought. When there's smoke there's fire. Why would they be focusing on him if he didn't do it? The cops must know some things that haven't been revealed.
Except, of course, he didn't do it. Jewell sued several media outlets, including the New York Post and settled for an undisclosed amount of money.
A good defense attorney can cloud up a case that may be built against Dr. Murray. How do we know he was the one who administered these "lethal levels?" Is it possible Jackson took some of the meds on his own and Murray was unaware of it?
Perhaps Murray's indulgent behavior toward his star patient did lead to Jackson's death. If so, that will come out at trial, presuming he is ultimately charged.
Until then, declaring in a bold headline that "The Doc Did It" is irresponsible at best. Let's at least wait until a jury of his peers says so before declaring Dr. Murray, no matter how culpable in Jackson's death he appears, guilty.