Conrad Murray on Trial for Michael Jackson Death; Patient-Physician Relationship Questioned

Dr. Conrad Murray is on trial for involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson because of the careless use of the sleep-inducing drug propofol.

The death of international pop superstar Michael Jackson on June 25th, 2009 was a musical industry tragedy of almost biblical proportions. After all, Jacko had sold in excess of 750 million records worldwide, had sold out concerts spanning several decades, and repeatedly broke sales records (most notably in the 1989 Guinness Book of World Records for $125 million in sales on the critically-acclaimed “Bad” tour). There were also plans for a performance of 50 sold-out concerts to over one million people at London’s O2 arena at the time of his death.

But to his family, friends, and legions of fans around the globe, the events that followed did more than raise a few eyebrows. A subsequent report filed by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office would indicate that the surgical anesthetic propofol, in combination with three other sedatives, was repeatedly administered by his personal physician Conrad Murray, the result of which sent Jackson into cardiac arrest and led to his death.

He was discovered at the residence by Murray, who placed a “frantic” call after finding that Jackson was “not breathing” and had a “faint pulse.”

The death, ruled a homicide, resulted in Murray being charged with involuntary manslaughter. A legal expert associated with the case expected a tough case, stating that "everyone loves Michael Jackson, so it will be tough to find a jury without bias."

The trial officially began this past Tuesday, September 27th and the prosecution began in earnest, claiming that Michael Jackson’s “misplaced trust” in Dr. Murray “cost him his life,” while Murray’s defense maintains that it was Jackson who self-administered the drug because he couldn't sleep, worrying that his “performance would get cancelled.”

Prosecutor David Walgren later countered by saying that "there was no doctor-patient relationship...what existed here was an employer-employee relationship. He was not working for the health of Michael Jackson. Dr. Murray was working for a fee."

As Day 3 of the trial continued today, testimony shifted and remained focused on what Murray did in the moments before and after paramedics were called for the unresponsive singer.

At the center of the controversy is the drug itself. Propofol--a powerful sedative which has been referred to as “The Milk of Amnesia”--is intended for use only under controlled conditions where vigilant monitoring and airway maintenance is practiced to ensure the safety of patients.

Murray’s own security guard, Alberto Alvarez, who may have supplied particularly damaging testimony implying a cover-up, claimed that Murray had asked him to “collect vials” and “remove a clear saline bag from an IV stand and place it in another bag,” and that at the bottom of the saline bag was "what appeared to me like a milky white substance.”

That milky white substance is believed to be the propofol, often referred to by Jackson himself as his ‘milk.’ That bag was entered into evidence at the trial.

Day 4 of the trial begins Friday with EMTs and doctors of UCLA Medical Center set to testify. Murray has plead not guilty. If convicted, he could have his medical license revoked and face up to four years in prison.