Criminal Justice

Conrad Murray Gets 4-Year Max in Death of Michael Jackson; Judge Cites 'Cycle of Horrible Medicine'


Citing “a cycle of horrible medicine” by Michael Jackson’s personal physician, Conrad Murray, a judge in Los Angeles today sentenced him to the four-year maximum after his involuntary manslaughter conviction in the famous pop singer’s death. The defense had sought probation.

Testimony at trial revealed that Murray had given Jackson propofol, an intravenous surgical anesthesia normally used in a hospital setting with monitoring equipment, almost nightly during the two months before his death, CNN reports.

Jurors apparently agreed with prosecutors that Murray had done so recklessly, in violation of the standard of care for physicians. Jackson used the powerful drug as a sleep aid.

Prosecutors complained that Murray blamed Jackson, his victim in the crime, rather than accepting responsibility, the news agency reports. Although Murray declined to testify in his own defense, he said in a documentary: “I don’t feel guilty because I did not do anything wrong,” the government said in a sentencing memo filed last week.

Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor today also said Murray’s “pattern of deceit and lies,” intended to forward his own interests, had contributed to Pastor’s decision to sentence him to four years.

However, as the judge also acknowledged, Murray’s defense and supporters point to much that he has done well in his life.

Despite growing up in circumstances so humble that he walked barefoot to school for several years, he went on to become a doctor who has had no contact with the law for the 20 years he has been a doctor. Murray is remorseful about Jackson’s death, his lawyers said, and he has treated many elderly, low-income individuals in his medical practice.

“The victim was a willing recipient of the medications administered,” the defense said in its sentencing memo. “In fact, Mr. Jackson had repeatedly begged Dr. Murray for propofol to overcome his insomnia so that he could sleep.”

Murray’s lawyers also pointed out that he is unlikely to reoffend because his medical license has been suspended.

Prior to sentencing, a lawyer for Jackson’s family read a statement: “We respectfully request you impose a sentence that reminds physicians they cannot sell their services to the highest bidder,” the Hollywood Reporter says.

Murray is unlikely to be required to serve more than two years of his sentence, which will confine him to the Los Angeles County Jail, the article notes.

The judge said he will have to pay restitution, but it is unclear from the coverage whether an amount was set. Prosecutors had sought $100 million, but it appears very unlikely that Murray could actually pay that amount, even if the judge imposed it.

Murray himself made no statement in court today prior to his sentencing and then sat stoically as Pastor angrily castigated him at length, according to the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times.

Calling Murray a disgrace to the medical profession, Pastor said he was responsible for a “horrific violation of trust” while caring for Jackson. Providing propofol to Jackson in the manner that Murray did, the judge said, “violated his sworn obligation, for money, fame, prestige and whatever else may have occurred.

“Talk about blaming the victim,” the judge said at one point in his lecture. “Not only isn’t there any remorse, there is umbrage and outrage on the part of Dr. Murray against the decedent.”

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Conrad Murray Guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter in Death of Michael Jackson”

ABAJournal.com: “Evidence Rulings and Incriminating Statements Made Conrad Murray’s Case a Losing Battl

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