- Created on 23 April 2013
LOS ANGELES — Eighteen months after his involuntary manslaughter conviction, Michael Jackson's doctor on Monday appealed his case, claiming there were multiple legal errors at his trial.
A lawyer for Dr. Conrad Murray argued in the 230-page appellate brief that there was insufficient proof that Jackson died of an overdose of the anesthetic propofol administered by Murray.
The appeal also reiterated an often-stated defense claim that Jackson may have administered the overdose to himself.
The pop superstar died on June 25, 2009, days before he was to leave for England to perform in his ill-fated "This is It" concert. Witnesses said Murray had been giving him propofol as a sleep aid, a purpose for which it was not intended.
Attorney Valerie Wass said that because of Jackson's great fame, his doctor was used as an example by the judge who sentenced him to the highest term for involuntary manslaughter. She suggested that even if his conviction is upheld, his four-year sentence should be reduced.
Murray is eligible for release in October after serving half his sentence.
Murray's two-month trial in 2011 drew wide media coverage, and Wass argued that the judge should have excluded TV cameras from the courtroom and granted a motion to sequester jurors to keep them insulated from publicity.
"The unprecedented fame of the alleged victim combined with the pervasiveness of modern media rendered it impossible for appellant to receive a fair trial with a non-sequestered jury in a case that was televised and streamed live around the world," the appeal said.
Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor had denied the defense motion, saying jurors who are sequestered often feel like prisoners and it interferes with their decision-making process. He instructed jurors daily to avoid publicity, and there was no indication that they violated the order.
The appeal also challenged the prosecution theory that Jackson was hooked up to an IV drip of propofol and left alone in his bedroom by Murray.
It called that scenario "absurd, improbable and unbelievable," and provided an exhaustive reprise of scientific testimony about Jackson's death. Murray told police he gave the singer an extremely small dose of propofol, a fact contradicted by scientists who reconstructed the events preceding the death.
Wass contended that one defense attorney, Michael Flanagan, failed to adequately cross-examine a scientist who testified to that issue. She said he and other lawyers also waited too long to ask for examination of residue in a propofol bottle found in Jackson's room, Their motion was filed 11 days after conviction and was denied.
The appeal faulted the judge for refusing to admit as evidence some of Jackson's previous medical records, his contract with concert promoter AEG, and his financial documents.
"The trial court abused its discretion by excluding all evidence of Jackson's financial condition, including lawsuits pending against him because such evidence was relevant to establish Jackson's state of mind on the day he died, which may have explained his conduct that morning and supported the defense theory of the case," the appeal said.
The attorney general's office, representing the prosecution, has 30 days to respond to the appeal. Wass then has another 20 days for her response.
She said the outcome of the appellate case could have some impact on pending medical board proceedings for Murray in Texas and California. The boards will decide whether to revoke Murray's license to practice medicine in the two states.
Meanwhile, Murray may be summoned to testify in a civil lawsuit filed against AEG by Jackson's mother, Katherine. Jury selection in that case is currently underway. She claims the concert promoter was negligent in hiring Murray to care for the singer.
- Created on 22 April 2013
LOS ANGELES — Lawyers in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by Michael Jackson's mother began using challenges to reject prospective jurors Friday but were confronted with a new set of panelists who had strong opinions critical of the superstar singer.
The search was to continue Monday for jurors who could be impartial toward Jackson and AEG, the company that promoted Jackson's ill-fated "This is It" concert.
No sooner had the attorneys excused two panelists for bias and used five of their 16 peremptory challenges to remove others without stating a cause than they were confronted with new problems.
One man said he had formed a strong opinion that Jackson was responsible for his own death.
"He was a weird person, too eccentric," he said when asked his opinion of Jackson as a person.
The jury candidate, an attorney, said he had heard that Jackson took strong narcotics to sleep.
"So you had a strong opinion that Michael Jackson caused his own death by taking strong narcotics?" asked Mrs. Jackson's attorney, Brian Panish.
"Yes," said the man. "...That's my opinion, not the facts, based on what I heard." He said he learned most of what he knew about the case from the Internet.
"I don't think I could be impartial," he said.
Another prospective juror who is the son of a doctor said he had a strong bias against Jackson and thought that Dr. Conrad Murray was not at fault in the superstar's death. He said he knew that Murray had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson an overdose of the anesthetic propofol.
"I don't believe Dr. Murray did anything wrong," said the man. "People take prescription drugs on their own. There may be some responsibility by Michael Jackson himself."
The man said he is also biased against people who seek large monetary awards in lawsuits involving doctors. He said his late father was an orthopedic surgeon and told him about the pitfalls of malpractice claims against physicians.
Mrs. Jackson's lawsuit claims AEG hired Dr. Conrad Murray as Jackson's physician without checking his credentials. Murray was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of the superstar.
Attorneys said outside court that the jury selection process could stretch through next week.
- Created on 15 April 2013
LOS ANGELES — Baseball has scored a rare hit in Hollywood.
The Jackie Robinson tale "42" took in $27.3 million to claim the weekend box-office championship domestically, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Released by Warner Bros., "42" easily beat the domestic start of an established franchise in "Scary Movie 5." The Weinstein Co. sequel opened in second-place with $15.2 million, the smallest debut for the horror-comedy series.
Three of the previous four "Scary Movie" installments had debuts of $40 million or more.
On the other hand, "42" outdid the usual expectations for baseball movies, which usually do modest business at best. Box-office trackers had expected "42" to pull in less than $20 million.
The $27.3 million opening for "42" is a record for a baseball flick in terms of straight dollars, topping the $19.5 million debut of "Moneyball" in 2011. Factoring in higher ticket prices, the $13.7 million debut of 1992's "A League of Their Own" would have been on par with "42" in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars.
The film stars Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and Harrison Ford as Brooklyn Dodgers boss Branch Rickey, who brought No. 42 onto the team in 1947 as the Major Leagues' first black player.
"It's a story that has so much emotion to it. Jackie Robinson's life had such an influence on our country," said Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., who noted that all Major League players will wear No. 42 on Monday for Jackie Robinson Day, the 66th anniversary of his Dodgers debut. "Think of what a tribute that is for what he accomplished. Every player wearing 42 on his back."
With generally good reviews, "42" drew in older crowds, with 83 percent of the audience over 25, Fellman said.
- Created on 19 April 2013
NEW YORK — Robin Roberts spent two days in the hospital fighting off an infection as part of her recuperation from a rare blood disease, and is off "Good Morning America" this week to rest.
The ABC News morning show host said she felt ill last week while on vacation and was told to return to New York and go to the hospital. She's home now, and posted on Facebook on Thursday that she's feeling much better.
Roberts underwent a bone marrow transplant in September to treat MDS, a blood and bone marrow disease. She was off work for five months before returning to the top-rated network morning show on a part-time basis in February.
She's generally worked three days a week, occasionally four. At the beginning of her return, ABC kept a potential fill-in on call at the studio in case she was feeling too ill to continue, the network said.
Roberts said doctors told her that her setback did not occur because she was working or doing too much.
"It's extremely common, post-bone marrow transplant, to have complications," she wrote. "I'm blessed that mine have not been severe."
She said she planned to be back on the top-rated network morning show next week.
Roberts also wrote that her heart goes out to Boston residents.
"It saddens me that I haven't been able to join my colleagues in covering this important story," she said.
- Created on 12 April 2013
NEW YORK — R&B star Chaka Khan will be inducted into the Apollo Theater's hall of fame.
The theater announced Thursday that Patti LaBelle and Mary J. Blige will perform in Khan's honor at its June 10 New York gala.
The annual event raises funds for the Apollo's education and community outreach programs.
Khan and Blige received a Grammy Award together in 2008 for "Disrespectful."
Singer-songwriter Lionel Richie and the late Etta James were inducted last year into the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame.
Other previous inductees include LaBelle, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin, to name just a few.