After Conviction, Legal Woes Mount For Jackson Doc

Jail time is not the only problem looming for the doctor convicted in Michael Jackson’s death. Lawsuits, medical licensing issues and possible payments to Jackson’s family await.

Some of the matters have been on hold since Dr. Conrad Murray was charged with involuntary manslaughter in February 2010, and the cardiologist’s attorneys have so far fended off attempts to end his ability to practice medicine.

Now, with the jury’s guilty verdict announced Monday, the efforts to hold Murray accountable in civil courts will speed up and the loss of his medical privileges are all but guaranteed.

Photo: AP Photo
Sitting in a courtroom during his involuntary manslaughter trial in Los Angeles,

The Houston-based physician is being sued by Jackson’s father, embroiled in a fight with the provider of his medical malpractice insurance and may be ordered to pay restitution to Jackson’s family when he is sentenced for involuntary manslaughter on Nov. 29.

But Murray won’t go quietly. His civil attorney said that if the lawsuits proceed, they will delve into territory unexplored during the doctor’s six-week criminal trial, including possible culpability by other doctors. Murray’s team will also look into options for Murray to relinquish his medical license in Texas — with an eye on trying to return to medicine within a year.

Brian Oxman, who represents father Joe Jackson in a wrongful death lawsuit against Murray, said his civil case “will absolutely focus on what happened before the last few hours of Michael’s life.”

Oxman is also working with Murray’s attorney, Charles Peckham, to possibly expand the case to include other physicians who treated Jackson, namely dermatologist Arnold Klein.

“We are looking at ways to expand the scope and view of this lawsuit to all those who are actually responsible for the death of Michael Jackson,” Peckham said Thursday.

Murray’s criminal attorneys frequently mentioned Klein to jurors and presented evidence about Demerol treatments that Klein gave Jackson in the months before the singer’s June 2009 death, but a judge blocked the dermatologist from testifying.

Peckham said some of Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor’s rulings — which were intended to keep the focus on Murray’s care of Jackson — “severely restrained testimony that would have pointed to Dr. Murray’s innocence.”

“There is substantial proof that supports the belief that the insomnia Michael Jackson was experiencing was a result of the overmedication of Michael Jackson with Demerol,” Peckham said.

No Demerol was found in Jackson’s system when he died, but a defense expert told jurors in the criminal case that some of the symptoms of withdrawal from the drug are similar to those caused by use of the anesthetic propofol, which is what killed Jackson. Murray said he was giving the pop superstar propofol treatments so that he could sleep as he prepared for a planned series of comeback concerts.

Klein’s attorney, Garo Ghazarian, said Friday that Murray’s attorneys would be foolish to try to pursue the Demerol defense in civil court.

“There is such a thing as a cross-complaint,” he said. “There is such a thing as a frivolous lawsuit. I hope they are familiar with those notions before they proceed against Dr. Klein.”

Ghazarian, a criminal defense lawyer who represented Klein during Murray’s trial, said the dermatologist would vigorously defend himself if named in a civil suit.

“I think you don’t have to be a lawyer to put two and two together,” Ghazarian said. “They want to throw dirt in every other direction except look at themselves.”

Murray’s attorneys are planning an appeal of his criminal conviction and he remains jailed without bail until his sentencing. At that hearing, prosecutors could seek restitution for Jackson’s family, although his mother and children have received millions in support from the singer’s estate since his passing.

In 2009, a judge ordered record producer Phil Spector to pay $26,000 in restitution fees after he was convicted of second-degree murder for shooting hostess Lana Clarkson. Nearly $10,000 was allocated for a state victims’ restitution fund, while the rest was set aside for Clarkson’s funeral expenses.

The prospects of recouping any money from Murray are uncertain — he was never paid for his work with Jackson and is being pursued by creditors. It is unknown how much money Murray has or will receive as a result of a documentary project that was to air Friday night on MSNBC.

“As a convicted felon, he is not permitted to profit from his crime,” Oxman said. “The family has the right to receive those funds.”

The documentary has been sold to broadcasters in several countries and has already been shown in Britain.

Louis Perry, a security driver who took Murray to-and-from court daily throughout the trial, said Friday that producers spent lavishly on Murray, taking him to expensive booze-filled dinners and paying more than $3,000 for a 12-seat van to ferry the doctor, his family and supporters to lunch during the trial. He said he was also told to bring Murray to an upscale department store, where Murray was fitted for new suits, including the one he wore when he was led from the courtroom in handcuffs on Monday, but he did not know exactly how the wardrobe was paid for.

The doctor has been fighting with his malpractice insurer, Medicus Insurance Co., in a Houston court since August 2010. Medicus is asking a judge to rule that it is not responsible for paying any of Murray’s legal bills in his fights with various medical boards, Joe Jackson’s lawsuit or his criminal defense. The case was on hiatus until after the criminal trial.

Peckham said he still contends the policy, purchased a month before Jackson’s death, should cover Murray’s legal bills.

Murray’s conviction should mean an end to his medical career, although Peckham said efforts are under way to protect a Houston clinic founded in honor of Murray’s father.

“We are working to make sure that Dr. Murray’s patients get the same type of stellar health care they got with Dr. Murray,” Peckham said.

The attorney acknowledged Murray’s medical license will be suspended — an effort a Texas Medical Board spokeswoman confirms is under way. Peckham said he is exploring whether Murray may agree to a revocation of his license to allow him to reapply to become a physician later.

Texas law allows a physician to apply for re-instatement one year after their license is revoked.

Murray’s medical license in California has been suspended since January. In Las Vegas, where Murray operates another clinic and where he first met Jackson, the doctor’s medical privileges will also likely be revoked as a result of his conviction.