Best Defender Bytes:

February 9, 2010


The Los Angeles District Attorney charged Dr Murray with involuntary manslaughter.  He now faces up to four years in jail if convicted.  The California Penal Code defines Manslaughter as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice.  Involuntary manslaughter is defined as a killing “in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to felony; or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection.”  Apparently, Dr. Murray administered a powerful sedative to Jackson in an effort to help him sleep.  Dr. Murray was allowed to surrender himself at court in Los Angeles without being handcuffed.  As he walked into court he was jeered by fans of the singer who hoisted banners including “Justice for Michael.”  Jacksons parents Joe and Katherine, and siblings Tito, LaToya and Jermaine also arrived at court. Asked if he was the happy with the charge, Jermaine Jackson said: “It’s not enough.”

The California Jury Instructions (CALCRIM 581) define the crime of voluntary manslaughter as follows:
To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:

1. The defendant (committed a crime that posed a high risk of death or great bodily injury because of the way in which it was committed/ [or] committed a lawful act, but acted with criminal negligence);AND

2. The defendant’s acts caused the death of another person.
[The People allege that the defendant committed the following crime[s]: _________________ <insert misdemeanor[s]/infraction[s])/non-inherently dangerous (felony/felonies)> .  Instruction[s] _________________ tell[s] you what the People must prove in order to prove that the defendant committed _________________ <insert misdemeanor[s]/infraction[s])/ non-inherently dangerous (felony/felonies)> .]  [The People [also] allege that the defendant committed the following lawful act[s] with criminal negligence: _________________ <insert act[s] alleged> .]   [ Criminal negligence involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistake in judgment. A person acts with criminal negligence when:

1. He or she 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 in that way would create such a risk.
In other words, a person acts with criminal negligence when the way he or she acts is so different from the way an ordinarily careful person would act in the same situation that his or her act amounts to disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences of that act.]  [An act causes death if the death is the direct, natural, and probable consequence of the act and the death would not have happened without the act. A natural and probable consequence is one that a reasonable person would know is likely to happen if nothing unusual intervenes. In deciding whether a consequence is natural and probable, consider all of the circumstances established by the evidence.]          [There 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.]

Great bodily injury means significant or substantial physical injury. It is an injury that is greater than minor or moderate harm.      [The People allege that the defendant committed the following (crime[s]/ [and] lawful act[s] with criminal negligence): _________________ <insert alleged predicate acts when multiple acts alleged> . You may not find the defendant guilty unless all of you agree that the People have proved that the defendant committed at least one of these alleged acts and you all agree on which act (he/she) committed.]

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