Dr. Conrad Murray is charged with involuntary manslaughter for causing the death of Michael Jackson. In California, a conviction for involuntary manslaughter is punishable by up to 4 years in prison. While this is analogous to a civil medical malpractice case for damages, the prosecution’s task is harder in two key ways, compared with what a civil plaintiff must prove.

First, the prosecution has to prove that Murray behaved recklessly rather than negligently. In order for Jackson’s killing to be considered involuntary manslaughter, it must be shown that Murray showed a reckless disregard of substantial risks, and that those risks caused Michael Jackson’s death.

Second, prosecutors must prove Murray’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Because involuntary manslaughter involves recklessness and not purposeful killing, it is a less serious crime than murder or voluntary manslaughter, but it’s still a tough crime to prove.  

As in so many cases, if Murray is convicted, it may be due to his own lies and failure to tell emergency medical personnel that he had treated Jackson with propofol.

We hear a lot these days about how medical care for the wealthy is so much better than it is for poorer people. Maybe it’s not so. Michael Jackson was paying this guy an absurd $150,000 per month, and for all that Murray seemed far more interested in talking to his bevy of mistresses than checking to see whether his patient was breathing.