The People of The City
Inside Conrad Murray's Houston church: Where no one calls the doctor MichaelJackson's killer
Before the news broke, the pews in the church filled to about two-thirds capacity. Taking up the entire back row section — usually unofficially reserved as an easy escape for little children crying and older folks with bladder problems — were cameras, cameramen, and their producers.
Typically, this isn't the scene that accompanies a regular church service. But this service served as something of a pep rally for a not-so-typical church member. The one who faces criminal charges over the death of the most famed pop star of our time.
With the national news keeping this church firmly in its gaze, families came to support their fellow church member, (still Dr.) Conrad Murray. The Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Acres Homes took in media crews from around the country, an international biographer from the United Kingdom and other journalists for this planned rally. A rally that had its own printed program — like a ballgame does.
Worshipers arrived earlier then the scheduled 1:30 pm time. It looked like many took off work early to show up and support the man who's accused in the death of Michael Jackson. With people in hospital scrubs and suits, and entire families sitting altogether, the message was as simple as the large signs placed up by the pulpit: "Dr. Conrad Murray Support Rally: The battle is not yours, it's the Lords."
I arrived about 15 minutes before the event was over because with narrow and newly paved streets, the Galilee Church is not easy to find for a first-time visitor.
A luxury pulpit
This isn't some stereotypical small Baptist church with no air conditioning but plenty of spirit — hot, sweaty, screaming spirit. Instead, Galilee greets with central air conditioning, an LED sign, an elevator, security, parking attendants, and even a dining hall with fancy tiling.
After looking for people to talk to while church members began walking back to their cars, a preacher at the church broke the news on the pulpit, "You'll have heard the news. Dr. Conrad Murray got to keep his license. The judge doesn't have jurisdiction to take Murray's license. You see how fast God works?"
Throughout the cheers and the announcements, I spoke to Dr. Murray's spokesperson, Miranda Sevcik who took every opportunity to rave about the good turnout.
"I am really happy that the church did this at all. We were so encouraged that the pastors got together and organized this," Sevick said. "When we heard the feedback that we would get 300 to 350 people to show their support and love for Dr. Murray and in the end we find out that he gets to keep his license. It's just wonderful."
When asked whether the attempts to take Murray's medical license will continue Sevcik says there is a "very very zealous prosecution that wants to — in our estimation — strip the doctor of his livelihood. By continuing to bring these challenges up regarding his license. He has not been found guilty of anything.
"Why they would want to strip someone's license before they had their day in court is beyond us. This is the second time they made this request of the judge, and both times they have been denied."
The UK biographer that was present stated that he was there to film a segment for the anniversary of Jackson's death. The eerie timing wasn't something just noticed by him, but by many.
It's been almost a year since Michael Jackson died and the storm around Conrad Murray began.
"It's going to be a year next Friday. It's been an unbelievably challenging year for the doctor and his legal team," Sevick said "The majority of it has not been inside a courtroom. The majority of it has just been to trying preserve the doctors's reputation in the court of public opinion. Because if you remember in the beginning of this, everyone wanted to lock him up and throw away the key
"And now here we are a year later and I think people have some real questions, and they should. There are a lot of contradictory evidence that people need to examine. And that's why people should all have their day in court to explain these things and not take situations in face value."
Murray has been practicing medicine at his institutions in Las Vegas and Houston since he was charged with the involuntary manslaughter of Michael Jackson on February 8. Many Galilee church members were quick to say that he is still their practicing physician of choice.
The hearing took place in Los Angles Superior Court with a new judge, Michael Pastor. In previous rulings, Murray was forbidden to administer anesthetics like Propofol to patients, which was cited as the cause of Jackson's death.
The Jackson family has been at every hearing that has taken place against Murray. He remains free on $75,000 bail.
A setup rescue?
In May, Murray made headlines when he stabilized a woman who fell unconscious on a US Airways flight that was leaving from Houston.
"The funny thing is that a lot of people thought that we planned it," Sevick said, laughing. "And we laughed so hard. I mean, come on? We planned that? That's just who the doctor is. He just helps when he is needed and that is one of the reasons why he is so loved in Acres Home because he is there when people need him.
"He's always been there regardless of whether people had insurance. Regardless of whether they had medicare. Regardless if they could ever pay them, he's there and he is there through the very end of it. So that's why he's got this following. If not because of any other reason, it's because he is a good doctor."
It seems that the focus at the church was less on God and more on Conrad. Murray's face greeted parishioners from a poster in the front of the church. Church members passed out business cards, a parking attendant hit on a girl, and a nonchalant air filled the room.
It was a spectacle straight out of a Hollywood movie.
Murray still lives and works in Houston. He reportedly brings along a bodyguard when he goes to and from work.
A number of hospitable and kind church goers requested my business card, hoping to notify the media of other community events. CultureMap was the only local online or print publication that showed up a Galilee church rally. In many ways, Murray's story is being covered much more extensively nationally — and internationally — than in Houston.
A church member took down the Murray signs as I began to leave. Sevcik, quickly told the sign guy, "Don't throw these away. We might need them again."