Conrad Murray: The Final Arguments (Part 1)

November 5, 2011 Conrad Murray

There is a lot of material to go through so I am breaking it up into the parts I think important. I am starting right at the beginning with Walgren’s first few minutes. I believe this time is critical to get the jury’s attention and get them motivated.

“Good morning everyone. Let me begin. All the parties involved in the trial thank each and everyone of you for your service in this case for being extremely punctual diligent and attentive jury. All the parties appreciate it and all the parties just ask if you will just hang on a bit long while we get through this last phase of the trial.

As the court indicated this is the closing argument and it gives us an opportunity to go through the evidence you heard and apply that evidence to the law and to present the case in a final summation.

You heard from I believe forty nine witnesses. You have been presented with 330 plus exhibits throughout the case extending weeks.  Multiple items of evidence, multiple witnesses and a great deal of evidence to consider. At the end of the day however and as I spoke to you about in voir dire this case will come down to whether Conrad Murray acted with gross negligence, criminal negligence in his treatment of Michael Jackson. It will come down to whether or not you believe it was a substantial factor in Michael Jackson’s death. It need not be the only factor, need not be the only cause, it need only be a substantial factor which is defined as something more than trivial and more than remote.”

This is verbal diarrhea. It says nothing and just fills up space. It is all buzz words. How can you waste the important first few minutes stumbling through legal cliches like this? I suggest we find every trial advocacy book which tells lawyers to start off thanking the jury and rip those pages out. It is stupid and illogical advice and must be written by fools who either never tried a real case or never learned when they did.

If you want to thank the jury do it in the body of the argument not at the beginning. Everyone knows you really don’t mean this. It is condescending and pandering. They know this intuitively. So stop it. It sounds and is phony.

Then he says “just hang on a bit longer while we get through this.” Wow that really gets our attention! Imagine the ad for a movie saying it is two hours long and you will get through it. It sounds more like root canal work than something one wants to listen to.

Then he tells them this is the final argument. Well, thanks for letting us know. We thought this would be a Michael Jackson concert.

Next is the statistical profile of witnesses and exhibits. Exciting. And then the coupe de grace. Murray’s actions might not be the only cause of death. Why tell them this at the beginning? The first thing in their mind is that you are agreeing that Jackson might have done it himself. Argue this later when explaining the instructions. Sure it reduces your burden, but it sounds weak when placed by itself right at the beginning.

He never uttered one sentence telling the jury why they must send this doctor to jail. He was so busy being polite, he forgot his job was to convict Murray. To tell the jury why this otherwise nice guy must be punished for committing a crime. He has to motivate them to condemn Murray, not to have tea with him.

While Walgren’s start is awful, fortunately for him he picks up speed and gives a very good closing. Of course he has all the evidence on his side so it makes it easier, but still he does a good job. Look at the next paragraph:

“Ladies and gentlemen the evidence in this case is overwhelming. The evidence in this case is abundantly clear that Conrad Murray acted with criminal negligence. That Conrad Murray caused the death of Michael Jackson. That Conrad Murray left Prince, Paris and Blanket without a father. For them the case doesn’t end today or the next day; for Michael’s children this case will go on forever. Because they do not have a father. They do not have a father due to the actions of Conrad Murray.”

He finally shook off his nerves, raised his voice, and told them why Murray has to be convicted. He should have started with this instead of it sounding almost like an afterthought. This is a great theme for him. This case is not about Michael Jackson the entertainer, the celebrity, but rather it is about three children who lost their father.

Walgren continues to build up steam from this point on and performs well. He has good arguments. He speaks in a clear voice. He has an excellent presentation. I have some nitpicks over some of it but he still gets high marks.