Op-Ed: Why Conrad Murray was convicted and Casey Anthony acquitted
Except for their notoriety, these two cases have little in common. But there is one commonality that explains why Conrad Murray is behind bars and Casey Anthony is a free woman.
Yesterday, after two days of deliberation, a Los Angeles jury in the case of The State of California vs. Conrad Robert Murray returned a verdict of guilty
of involuntary manslaughter in the June 25, 2009 death of pop star Michael Jackson.
Last July 5, a Florida jury found Casey Marie Anthony not guilty
on all charges that directly pertained to the death of her two-year-old daughter, Caylee. Anthony was acquitted on charges of first degree murder, aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse.
These were two different trials and contained completely different allegations. They were heard before different judges and juries and the parties were represented by different lawyers. Yet the reason why one ended in unpopular acquittals while the other concluded with the defendant's conviction can be explained. The prosecutors in the Murray case conducted themselves with total professionalism and without being influenced over the fact that the victim was one of the most beloved celebrities of all time. It would have been easy for them to have charged Murray with more serious offences simply because the victim was Michael Jackson. But they didn't. On the other hand, the prosecutors in the Anthony case blew it.
Those prosecuting Anthony overcharged the defendant. She was charged with both first degree murder and manslaughter, both based upon a single incident; taking the life of Caylee. In both opening and closing arguments, prosecutors argued they were going to and did prove that Anthony intentionally killed her daughter. If that truly was their belief, why did they not just charge her with murder and not manslaughter? By proceeding on the charges they did, the prosecutors, led by Jeff (Laughing Man) Ashton, wanted the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Anthony intentionally or unintentionally took the life of the toddler. No wonder the jury couldn't decide exactly what "Tot Mom" had actually done.
Prosecutors often over charge criminal defendants. One reason is to try and get the defendant to plead guilty to the least serious offence which is all they are guilty of in the first place. But with Jose Baez making a name for himself in the Anthony case that wasn't going to happen. It was a tactical mistake by the prosecution to have tried Anthony on anything more serious than manslaughter.
Despite the notoriety attached to Murray's case because who the victim was, the prosecutors looked at other more serious charges they could have brought and rejected them. Murray went to trial on one count of involuntary manslaughter which is the least serious homicide charge under the California Penal Code
. Involuntary manslaughter includes doing a lawful act such as a doctor administering propofol that might cause death, in an unlawful manner or without due caution and circumspection. The proper standard was applied by Murray's prosecutors of only proceeding on a count if there was a likelihood of conviction. It is doubtful there will be any serious criticism of the jury that found Murray guilty.
There was absolutely no evidence (or even speculation) that Murray had the intention to kill Jackson. Murray was at most, negligent and Jackson's death accidental, making a case for involuntary manslaughter. And the lack of intent to kill is what Murray has in common with Anthony.
There was no evidence that Anthony intended to kill her daughter. Sure, she might have wanted her dead so she could party, but a person in the United States cannot be convicted of something they might have done or could have done. There was no evidence Anthony intentionally killed Caylee.
While a lot of attention was paid to Anthony's lies about Caylee being look after by Zanny the Nanny, there was hardly any mention of who was actually looking after the toddler during the time Casey was lying. It was either Casey or someone assisting her. Either way, Caylee often returned to her grandparents' home as the bright happy toddler that was seen in the videos.
Caylee did not die of natural causes or kill herself. Had Anthony been charged only with manslaughter only the jury probably would have rejected the theory of the defense that Caylee was with George Anthony when she accidentally drowned, just like Murray's jury rejected the scenario that Jackson himself administered a fatal dose of drugs. Anthony probably would have been convicted of manslaughter.
Murray received a lot of media coverage because of who the victim was. But, unfortunately, Anthony was just one of several mothers who go on trial every year for killing their children. The reason Casey Anthony became a cause celebre was because the media, led by Nancy Grace and HLN, made it so. Had the prosecutors ignored the media they might very well have proceeded only on manslaughter and obtained a conviction.
Members of the Jackson family were pleased with the outcome
even though Murray is only facing a maximum of four years in jail, Crowds of Jackson supporters outside the court house cheered when the verdict was announced. One of the dissenting voices was, not surprisingly, Nancy Grace.. She was quoted
in Inside TV
I think the whole charging decision was wrong. He [Murray] should have been charged with murder with propofol as the deadly weapon and he should be doing life behind bars.
Had the prosecution listened to Grace, Conrad Murray would have likely walked as Casey Anthony did. But a conviction was obtained by professional prosecutors who did their jobs properly.