Here is my analysis of Chernoff’s first few minutes. It seems chopped up because that is how Chernoff speaks. He darts from phrase to phrase without finishing his thoughts. He doesn’t speak in complete thoughts. He bounces around with his arguments. It is more like a conversation between two people; it is easier to hear than to read because of that. And quite frankly, at many times it is just disjointed. In any event, here is what I got down from him and what I think of it.
“Mr. Walgren thanked you for the six weeks you spent here and I appreciate it.
Walgren’s argument is why we have the right to a jury trial. No matter how misleading or inaccurate, he said it is the jury who looks at the evidence and analyzes the charge. Walgren says there is a reason we don’t have to go into Propofol. There is a reason why not to give you the whole context. He says he doesn’t have to prove a direct and casual connection to Murray. That is disturbing. The law says there may be more than one cause of death but it has to be a substantial factor in the death.
He says what a wonderful entertainer Jackson was and I agree. How bad this is on his family. How bad a doctor Dr. Murray is. And how Dr. White used to be a scientist. What he doesn’t tell you, they failed to prove a crime. Let me show you what I am talking about.
Sorry we did this yesterday so bear with me (as he is fumbling with some exhibits). He spent an hour and a half about negligence. I told you right from the beginning that we are not disputing negligence. But this case isn’t a medical board hearing or a civil case; it is about liberty for a crime that has to be proved. The prosecution has to show Murray actually killed Jackson.
They have to show criminal negligence, but also the specific act of criminal negligence was the cause. And you have to be unanimous on that. The medical board may address it later.
Let me talk about undisputed facts. The nature of Propofol. This is a time line. He implied things going on without proving them. We know for sure Murray found him not breathing. Whatever you think about Dr. Murray, all he cared about was the safety of Michael Jackson. The very first thing he did when he finds him not breathing and possibly dead is to revive him. That is the first thing he did. He wasn’t saving his own neck. This is a fact. He immediately tries to revive him.”
When he walks in front of the jury, after Walgren finished, he had everyone’s attention. The jury is silently waiting to hear if he has a logical rebuttal to what they just heard from the prosecution. They sat in quiet anticipation about what they were about to hear. It is a special, powerful moment, one that can’t be squandered. As I have said many times before, the lawyer must have his best argument up front. He has to be ready to deliver it. He has to signal the jury he has important points to make. That he has a forceful rebuttal. That he can explain how the death occurred. That he can exonerate his client.
Remember the old saying: “You only get one opportunity to make a good first impression.”Unfortunately for Dr. Murray he lost that opportunity. I have set forth as much as I could from his argument so you can see it and judge for yourself. Did he accomplish any of this? Learn from his mistakes and spend a lot of time on your opening sentences, then polish them and practice them. Then do it all over again. Make them memorable.
This is bad enough to follow but then he gets lost in the thicket of his time line. He is barely comprehensible:
“at 11:51 Sade phone call. She listens to 2 minutes before hanging up. From 11:18 to 12 Murray was on the phone. If he had found MJ then. It would have happened at of those times he would have gotten off the phone to revive him. He could have been anywhere for those 42 minutes talking on the phone or texting. He could have been right next to the bed.
“When you look at nature of Propofol. It is a 10 minute drug by injection. They have a procedure longer than that. The only way to keep going is by IV inject or IV drip. We know that if prior to 11:18 am if Murray gave an inject anytime within those 28 minutes then by the time he left by 11:18. He was off the phone at 11:18. No matter what he was doing there was no danger based on what he knew he gave Michael Jackson. They spent 6 weeks trying to prove a drip. Because without a drip then what Murray gave Michael Jackson would not have harmed without an intervention.
“All the things Dr. Shafer said in his testimony but he didn’t not speak about it. They know that during that period of time that what the prosecution doing was to create a drip that didn’t exist. They refused to accept the most reasonable explanation that he gave exactly what he said he gave him. They want you to convict him for the actions of Michael Jackson. That is what they really want . . . they just don’t want to tell you that.”
This is the first few minutes of his final argument. I must admit, he lost me. It is just too disjointed and without logical connections between his points.
Here are some more excerpts from the rest of his argument:
“Dr. Murray did NOT kill Michael Jackson” Michael Jackson killed Michael Jackson by self-administering himself with prescription medication.
The prosecution failed to prove that Murray hooked Michael Jackson up to a Propofol drip before the singer died . . . and without a drip, there is no way the prosecution can prove Murray ever put Michael Jackson’s life in danger.
“They can’t prove a crime . . . and they REALLY need to prove a crime”
The most logical explanation is . . . “Michael Jackson went into his personal bathroom and swallowed Lorazepam and Dr. Murray didn’t know.”
“Somebody’s got to say it . . . . If it were anybody else but Michael Jackson . . . anybody else, would this doctor be here today?”
“Murray’s greatest personality defect is his greatest character strength, Dr. Murray had no control over the situation because of what was happening in the background. He was just a little fish in a big, dirty pond.”
“Murray made mistakes. But this is not a civil case. For a crime to be committed, the prosecution has to show Murray killed Michael Jackson.”
He concluded by asking the jury to take their decision seriously . . . saying, “This is not a reality show, this is reality . . . I hope that you do the right thing and find Dr. Murray not guilty.”
At one point he made a fairly stupid remark as he took a drink of water: “Is it warm in here or is it just me?” I guess Dr. Murray wasn’t the only one feeling the heat.
He had a few decent core points sprinkled through his remarks. But they didn’t have much power. He never got the audience’s attention. There were so many examples he could have used from the trial evidence to make strong points. But he never put them together in a compelling presentation.
When you are speaking on a national stage, it has to be first class. How many opportunities does a lawyer get like this? Why waste it with inanities? I would have walked the jury through a list of the strongest points I had with excerpts of the testimony. Hit them hard and make them unforgettable. Once again missed opportunities.