Verdict in Jackson doctor's case a media event

The involuntary manslaughter trial of Conrad Murray ended in a conviction Monday, after nearly six weeks of grueling and sometimes explicit testimony about the circumstances surrounding the 2009 death of Michael Jackson.

HLN, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC all covered the verdict live; the latter incorporated coverage from regular contributor Martin Bashir, who conducted several controversial interviews with the performer at his private amusement park, Neverland Ranch.

Protesters brandishing “GUILTY” signs stood outside the courthouse, alongside photos of Jackson and memorabilia from the singer’s career. At the publication of the verdict, cheers went up outside the courthouse (and briefly inside the courthouse, before being shushed).

The Big Four broadcasters broke in with special reports, with Diane Sawyer anchoring for ABC, Harry Smith for NBC, Scott Pelley for CBS, and Bill Hemmer anchoring for Fox stations.

The trial is one of several this year that have given news networks a respite from the inundation of expensive disaster and war stories, from the ongoing events of Arab Spring to the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and meltdown. As with the trials of Casey Anthony and Amanda Knox, cable news ratings are expected to spike. HLN in particular saw major gains from those trials, though close attention from network personality Nancy Grace was a factor in that trial.

Grace’s presence was less pronounced in the Murray trial due to her “Dancing with the Stars” commitments. Jane Velez Mitchell is leading coverage on HLN and filling in for Grace on Monday as per usual for Mondays and Tuesdays during “Dancing” season.

On the subject of whether or not to give interviews during post-trial coverage, “the decision is yours and yours alone,” the judge told the jury. He also reminded jurors that California required them to wait 90 days before accepting payment to discuss the trial.

Separately, MSNBC has licensed a docu on Conrad Murray produced over the past two years by October Films and What’s It All About Prods. and distribbed by Zodiak Rights.

The hourlong spesh, set to air on MSNBC on Friday, features an interview with Murray conducted in November 2009, prior to his arrest. “Michael Jackson and the Doctor: A Fatal Friendship” has also been licensed by the U.K.’s Channel Four and Oz’s Nine Network.

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