WITH an audible gasp and silent tears, members of Michael Jackson’s family received the verdict they had awaited for more than two years.
Conrad Murray, personal physician to the popstar, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, for Jackson’s 2009 death.
The lengthy trial painted Murray as a reckless caregiver who administered a lethal dose of a powerful anaesthetic that killed Jackson on the eve of a highly-anticipated comeback tour.
Lawyers for the Houston-based cardiologist countered that Jackson was addicted to the drug and self-administered the fatal dose when Murray left his bedroom.
Members of Jackson’s family wept quietly after the verdict was read, and his mother, Katherine Jackson later told The Associated Press: “I feel better now”.
La Toya Jackson said she was overjoyed.
“Michael was looking over us,” she said on her way out of the courthouse. She later tweeted: “VICTORY!!!!!!”
The verdict was greeted by joy and relief by fans who congregated outside the courthouse.
A crowd erupted in cheers after the verdict was handed down. Supporters and fans of Jackson started chanting, “Guilty! Guilty!’
LA District Attorney Steve Cooley praised his deputy David Walgren, who was widely praised for his masterful prosecution of the case, against a defence which some observers thought ended the trial in tatters.
Murray did not testify during the trial but previously acknowledged to police that he gave Jackson propofol and other sedatives on the morning the singer died.
“They put together a compelling case based upon competent evidence. Their presentation of the evidence in the court was superb,” Mr Cooley said.
Mr Walgren himself added: “Our sympathies go out to the Jackson family at this time, for the loss that they have suffered. Not a pop icon but a son and a brother. That’s most important to keep in mind today,” he told reporters.
The judge cited Murray’s ties outside California and the serious nature of the crime as reasons to deny bail, and he was immediately remanded pending a sentencing hearing.
“Dr Murray’s reckless conduct in this case poses a demonstrable risk to the safety of the public” if he remains free on bond, Judge Michael Pastor said.
Murray was handcuffed and taken into custody. He appeared calm as officials led him out of the courtroom.
He faces a possible sentence of up to four years behind bars, and will lose his medical license.
The seven men and five women who held the fate of Murray in their hands were a diverse cross-section of Los Angeles, people of varying ethnicities from different towns who might never have met if they had not been thrown together in the jury pool.
Murray will be sentenced on November 29.