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Conrad Murray's lawyer asks appeals panel to throw out conviction

The attorney contends that prosecutors had failed to prove that the cardiologist was responsible for Michael Jackson's 2009 death and that the judge 'displayed bias' against Murray.

April 23, 2013|By Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times
  • Dr. Conrad Murray was found guilty in 2011 on involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Michael Jackson in 2009.
Dr. Conrad Murray was found guilty in 2011 on involuntary manslaughter… (Al Seib, Los Angeles Times )

Dr. Conrad Murray's trial was "fundamentally unfair" because of the publicity surrounding his manslaughter case and the fame of his patient, Michael Jackson, the physician's attorney wrote in papers filed Monday asking an appellate court to throw out his conviction.

Murray's attorney contended that prosecutors had failed at trial to prove that the cardiologist was responsible for the pop icon's death. She also contended that the trial judge, Michael Pastor, "displayed a bias" against the doctor.

Murray was sentenced to a maximum four-year sentence after his 2011 conviction for involuntary manslaughter.

The appellate attorney, Valerie Wass, argued in her 231-page brief that Jackson probably injected himself with the surgical anesthetic that led to his death and that the judge should have allowed Murray's defense to present evidence of the pop star's dire finances.

"In more ways than one, Jackson was a desperate man," she wrote. "Based on his desperate financial state, combined with his physiological problems, Jackson may have acted recklessly and/or irrationally on June 25th by self-injecting."

In trial, prosecutors responded to the theory by arguing that even if Jackson had awoken and given himself the fatal dose, Murray was still negligent and should be held responsible for the singer's death.

Wass also wrote that jurors could not possibly have been shielded from the overwhelming media coverage of the seven-week trial. She noted that witnesses gave media interviews during trial and that there was even a "Michael Jackson Doctor Trial" smartphone application.

She accused Pastor of sentencing Murray to a harsher term than he deserved because the case was high-profile.

"It appears that due to the publicity surrounding the case, and the fact the victim was one of the most famous people in the world, the court was trying to make an example out of appellant," she wrote.

Before handing down Murray's sentence, Pastor remarked from the bench on Murray's lack of remorse in a television interview that aired after the trial.

"Talk about blaming the victim.... Not only isn't there any remorse, there is umbrage and outrage on the part of Dr. Murray against the decedent," the judge said at the time.

Wass contended that it was improper for Pastor to consider media interviews.

Murray is due to be released in October under state sentencing guidelines. The outcome of the doctor's appeal would affect his ability to practice medicine following his release.

victoria.kim@latimes.com

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