Now that a criminal jury has found Dr. Conrad Murray’s guilty of involuntary manslaughter, his case will head for civil court where Murray could be found liable for medical malpractice.
The Jackson family is ready for the next chapter. On his way out of Monday’s court hearing when Murray receive his guilty verdict, family patriarch Joe Jackson told the crowd of media and fans, “There’s more.”
Civil suits against Murray and AEG Live LLC, the firm behind Jackon’s “This Is It” tour, have already been filed. Joe Jackson, Michael Jackson’s father, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Murray in November 2010. Katherine Jackson, the pop star’s mother, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against AEG in September 2010.
Sources familiar with planning told ABCNews.com that it’s likely the two suits will be joined together and focus on Murray’s action. Sources said that the civil case will attempt to answer whether or not AEG knew that propofol, the drug that was determined to have killed Michael Jackson, was being used in an outpatient basis and whether AEG knew administering propofol that way was a risky enterprise.
But it’s unlikely the law suits will ask Murray to pay damages. Sources said that considering AEG’s resources and Murray’s lack thereof, the entertainment firm would be held accountable.
In a civil case, a judge or jury only has to find that there is more than a 50 percent probability that the defendant was negligent, whereas the standard in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt.
“His conviction can be used in a civil case as conclusive proof,” legal expert Dana Cole told ABCNews.com.
Statements Murray made to the police and other evidence excluded from the criminal trial would also more than likely be admissible in a civil case.
A civil suit may bring comfort to Jackson fans and his heirs, since even the manslaughter conviction may not bring them the result they were hoping for — that Murray spend time behind bars. On Monday, a judge remanded Murray to jail pending his Nov. 29 sentencing. Murray was cuffed and taken into custody after Monday’s hearing finished.
Murray could be sentenced to up to four years in prison. But with the recent change in California law, which transfers all non-violent inmates to county jail, he’s unlikely to do any time in state prison, Chicago-based attorney Kelly A. Saindon said. Moreover, with the realities of jail overcrowding in California, he’s more than likely to get a sentence of house arrest for up to a year, she said.
“I have a feeling that’s what will happen. I don’t think he will serve a day behind bars,” Saindon said.
For Jackson’s heirs, that reality could be fueling their civil battle against Murray. “I wouldn’t think it’s for the money, though money always makes people feel vindicated to some extent,” Saindon said. “This is their way of exacting revenge.”
Cole doubts Murray would return to the courtroom after his ordeal in the criminal case. If he’s got malpractice insurance, more than likely he will try to settle any civil suits.
As for his medical license, if convicted, Murray will most certainly lose his legal right to practice. In 20 years of practicing medicine, he’s never had his license suspended or a malpractice claim filed against him.
“The medical board can … suspend or revoke his license and they’ll have all the evidence before them,” a job made easier with his conviction, Saindon said.
The trial and the ensuing publicity have dealt “an unmitigated blow to his career,” Cole said. “He probably was decent a physician who cared for his patients, as they testified. Whether he can bounce back, it will be an uphill battle.”