LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Members of the 12-person jury who cleared AEG Live of wrongdoing in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial have spoken out about how they reached the verdict.
The six man, six woman jury, after an 80-day trial, rejected legal claims filed by the late singer’s mother, Katherine Jackson, that the concert promoting giant acted negligently by hiring Dr. Conrad Murray to care for the singer as he prepared for his ill-fated “This Is It” comeback concert series and was thus liable for Michael Jackson’s death.
The jury foreman, juror number six Gregg Barden, said outside the courtroom he felt the appropriate verdict was reached.
“No, I do not see it as a vindication of Dr. Murray,” Barden clarified. “No, I would not hire him as my doctor. It’s not a vindication.”
Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death and sentenced in November 2011 to four years in the Los Angeles County men’s jail.
Barden referred to the 16-question jury form, which required jurors to answer ‘yes’ to the first and subsequent questions before moving forward to reach their verdict.
The jury unanimously found that AEG Live did hire Murray to care for Jackson but did not find the physician unfit or incompetent to perform the work for which he was hired. The second question, which received a 10-2 vote, brought their service to a close.
“Again, it’s the way that the question is worded that we had to answer it,” Barden said.
“If the wording had been different, the outcome may have been different. But we had to focus on the wording of the question and go with the jury instructions.”
Juror number nine, Kevin Smith, later addressed the media, speaking in defense of AEG.
“If AEG have known what was going on behind closed doors, it would have probably made a world of difference. But they didn’t,” he said.
“Michael Jackson was pretty used to getting his own way. He was a big star.”
AEG attorneys argued throughout the trial Michael Jackson’s death was a matter of personal responsibility. They maintained Jackson was secretive about his medical care, including the treatment Dr. Murray provided the pop star inside his bedroom when he died from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol, administered as a sleep aid, in June 2009.
Attorneys for the Jackson family, seeking $85 million for each of Jackson’s three children and $35 million for his mother, argued that AEG executives hired and pressured Dr. Murray into making questionable medical decisions for the singer to ensure that he could perform during his London residency.
The jurors were partially sequestered throughout the trial, meaning they could still go home every night. But since deliberations began on Thursday they were followed by an armed guard wherever they went.
Jury foreman Barden spoke with KCAL9′s Andrea Fujii after Wednesday’s verdict was reached, revealing what the last five months have been like as attorneys for the Jackson family and AEG Live argued their cases.
He’s now going back to his normal life with his wife and dog, as a middle school physical education teacher and a football coach at Bellmont High.
“As far as football goes, I will be there tomorrow. As far as school goes, definitely by Monday. I want to be back to what I do,” he said.
Barden also said he’s confident with his fellow jurors’ decision although he knows there are those who will ridicule them for it.
“We realize this is a verdict that not everybody is going to agree with. But we hope that they will understand how we reached the verdict,” he said.
Barden also said he wasn’t a big fan of Michael Jackson going into the trial, but he now considers himself one.
“He was a humanitarian. He was cared about people. He cared about the earth. And this was all evidence that was given then court.”
“There are no winners in this,” Barden said. “For us to be there, somebody had to die.”
The verdict was announced just 26 days before Dr. Murray’s scheduled release from jail after the physician served about two years for his involuntary manslaughter conviction.
His attorney, Valerie Wass, told Andrea Fujii he will be pleased with this decision.
“I’m thrilled,” Wass said.
“Dr. Murray’s a competent doctor and the fact that this jury – this intelligent jury – heard evidence for five months and reached this verdict, finding that he was competent for the job for which he was hired, I think it’s a great sign for Dr. Murray,” she said.
Dr. Murray is currently appealing his conviction, although Wass said that today’s decision won’t necessarily benefit him.
“This won’t help his appeal,” Wass continued. “The appeal is based on the criminal trial record so this has nothing to do with it.”
Wass also said that Dr. Murray is looking forward to his release, adding that he first plans to spend time with his children, his family and his girlfriend.
To watch Andrea Fujii’s full interview with jury foreman Gregg Barden, click here.