There is only one charge for the jury to consider in the Dr. Conrad Murray's trial: involuntary manslaughter.
There are no lesser-included charges. But there are two theories of involuntary manslaughter that the jurors will consider. They can find Murray guilty of one or both theories but they must be unanimous on whatever they decide.
What does involuntary manslaughter mean?
Involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing without malice. Malice is when someone does something with a conscious disregard for life.
This next part gets a little complicated, but keep reading, we're going to break it down for you.
Involuntary manslaughter is committed when a defendant commits a lawful act with criminal negligence, or fails to perform a legal duty and that failure is criminally negligent, and the defendant's acts or failure to perform a legal duty unlawfully caused the death of someone else.
Here are two theories of Involuntary Manslaughter that are relevant to the Murray trial:
1. the commission of a lawful act with criminal negligence
2. failure to perform a legal duty where such failure was criminally negligent
What is an lawful act?
A lawful act is something the defendant does that does not break any laws.
In this trial, the jury will be instructed that the commission of the lawful act with criminal negligence is that Murray, a licensed physician, administered propofol to Michael Jackson.
What does it mean to fail to perform a legal duty?
In most situations people are not required to act under circumstance.
For example, if you are a regular citizen walking down the street and see someone about to jump out a window of a tall building the law doesn't require you to try to save the jumper.
But the jury in this trial will be instructed that Murray, a physician who assumed the duty of care of Michael Jackson, had a legal obligation to care for him and that the failure to perform this legal duty was committed when Murray gave Jackson propofol then left him unattended.
The prosecution is expected to argue a host of ways in which Murray was negligent in the administration of propofol and failure to perform a legal duty of care. At the charge conference on Wednesday, Nov. 1, prosecutors listed seven acts under the "lawful act" theory and 15 acts under the "failure to perform a legal duty."
Those acts or failures include:
. no other medical personnel present
. inadequate monitoring equipment
. failure to constantly monitor Jackson
. ineffective resuscitative care
. failure to call 911 immediately
. administering propofol for insomnia
NOTE: The above list is not complete, because the prosecution did not read the entire list in open court.
What does causation mean?
A critical element of involuntary manslaughter is that the negligent act or failure to perform a legal duty caused someone's death.
The instruction to the jury in this trial will include the following language:
An act (or failure to perform a legal duty) causes death if the death is a direct, natural, and probable consequence of the act (or failure to perform a legal duty) and the death would not have happened without the act (or failure to perform a legal duty). A natural and probable consequence is one that a reasonable person would know is likely to happen if nothing unusual intervenes. It's important to know that here may be more than one cause of death. An act causes death only if it is a substantial factor in causing the death. A substantial factor is more than a trivial or remote factor. However, it does not need to be the only factor that causes the death.
A special instruction to the jury, which the prosecution drafted, is expected to be read following the definition of causation. We do not have the exact language, but it deals with whether an intervening act could have been foreseen. If the intervening act (Jackson self-administering propofol) was foreseeable, then Murray can still be found guilty.
What does criminal negligence mean?
The jury instruction will include the following language:
Criminal negligence involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistake in judgment. A person acts with criminal negligence when:
1. he acts in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury; and
2. a reasonable person would have known that acting or failing to perform a legal duty in that way would create such a risk.
In other words, a person acts with criminal negligence when their behavior is so different from the way an ordinarily careful person would act in the same situation, that his act (or failure to perform a legal duty) amounts to disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences of that act (or failure to perform a legal duty).
The jury will be instructed that, in order to find Murray guilty, they must find that the prosecutors proved each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
Elements of Involuntary Manslaughter/Lawful Act Performed Negligently
1. Conrad Murray committed a lawful act but acted with criminal negligence; and
2. Conrad Murray's acts caused the death of Michael Jackson.
Elements of Involuntary Manslaughter/Failure to Perform a Legal Duty
1. Conrad Murray had a legal duty to Michael Jackson;
2. Conrad Murray failed to perform that legal duty;
3. Conrad Murray's failure was criminally negligent; and
4. Conrad Murray's failure caused the death of Michael Jackson.
Jurors must keep all that in mind and then the must be unanimous on one or both theories:
1. lawful act committed with criminal negligence or
2. failure to perform a legal duty and such failure was with criminal negligence.
If the jurors cannot reach a unanimous decision, then they are considered deadlocked, also called a hung jury. Judges encourage juries to work toward a decision, but if they absolutely can't agree, then the judge declares a mistrial. That means the case could be retried and we start all over.