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July 2009 Archives

Micheal Jackson, Criminal Liability?

Authored by Anthony Renaldo, Esq. The recent death of entertainer Michael Jackson has sparked a frenzy of world wide attention. Most troubling has been the mysterious circumstances surrounding his acquisition and use of prescriptive pain and sleeping medication. Currently, autopsy and toxicology reports are under way to determine what actually killed the superstar. Legally, the fundamental question is whether Jacksons death was due to an accidental overdose or a homicide? If the coroner finds that the cause of death is an accidental overdose, Jacksons doctors (assuming they administered and/or prescribed the medication) could still be faced with a series of civil suits. However, assuming Jacksons death is ruled a homicide by the L.A.P.D., the person (i.e. doctor, nurse, etc) who prescribed and/or administered the drugs, could be held criminally liable for their actions and could face a significant jail term. The most serious criminal charge that the doctors could face would be manslaughter. In Pennsylvania, a person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter when as a direct result of the doing of an unlawful act in a reckless or grossly negligent manner, or the doing of a lawful act in a reckless or grossly negligent manner, he causes the death of another person. This criminal law applies to all doctors who provide treatment and prescribe medication to their patients; over prescribing medication to the degree that Jacksons doctors supposedly did would likely be considered reckless or grossly negligent. Assuming Jacksons doctors were in fact reckless or grossly negligent in their treatment of the King of Pop, they could face serious jail time as well as severe fines and a loss of their medical license. [the foregoing is a general discussion on criminal law and should not be construed as either legal advice. Furthermore, any defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty by a jury of his/her peers]. 

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