Dr. Conrad Murray has been sentenced to four years in prison for involuntary manslaughter in the death of pop legend Michael Jackson.
His six-week trial filled in many details about Jackson's final hours, including Dr. Murray's use of operating room anesthetic propofol to treat the singer's chronic insomnia.
Dr. Conrad Murray: I'm Not Guilty
In a 2009 investigation into Michael Jackson's death, Murray told detectives he had been giving the singer heavy doses of propofol to help him sleep. Jackson was suffering from insomnia in the weeks leading up to a comeback tour featuring concerts around the world. Murray acknowledged that propofol was only supposed to be used in hospitals and had not been approved for sleep treatments.
Murray admitted, however, that he had still given propofol to Jackson and then left the room, leaving the singer to slip into unconsciousness and die.
Although he declined to testify during his trial, Murray, 58, did participate in a reality program on Michael Jackson's death. In Michael Jackson and the Doctor, shown after the guilty verdict, the doctor said he did not consider himself guilty of any crime. He blamed Jackson for entrapping him, saying he pressured the doctor to supply him with propofol doses.
Attempt to Waive Live Media Coverage
In The People v. Conrad Murray, Judge Michael E. Pastor first heard the defense attempt to waive live media coverage of Dr. Murray's sentencing. Bringing up the reality coverage in which Murray participated, Judge Pastor questioned the move to stop media sources from covering the trial. The People's counsel agreed, though the defense continued to press its case.
In the end, Judge Pastor allowed live coverage. I believe there is a public interest in having these public proceedings be public, he said.
Prosecution: Murray Preyed on Vulnerability
Prosecutors had pushed for a maximum sentence of four years for Dr. Murray, and for classifying the involuntary manslaughter as a serious felony. They also urged the judge to force Murray to make restitution to Prince, Paris and Blanket, Jackson's three children.
Jackson's family representative read a statement before the sentencing was announced. There's no way to adequately describe the loss of our son, father, brother and friend, the statement read. It called on the court to use Dr. Murray to remind physicians that they cannot sell their services to the highest bidder.
Prosecutors emphasized Murray's attempts to cover up his role in Jackson's death after the fact, and his administration of propofol for months before the increasingly vulnerable singer died. They also noted that Dr. Murray had called his girlfriend before calling 911.
The People's lawyers argued that Dr. Murray's declining to keep medical notes proved he knew the dangers of what he was doing, and that he violated doctor-patient trust by preying on the singer's fragile mental state. The defendant was playing Russian roulette with Michael Jackson's life every single night, prosecutors said.
Dr. Murray declined to speak at his sentencing. Dr. Murray's mother, however, pleaded earlier with Judge Pastor for a lenient sentence. Dr. Milta Rush called her son a good man who had never drunk alcohol, taken drugs or smoked cigarettes in his life.
He is saddened and remorseful about the death of his friend Michael Jackson, Dr. Rush said, and I do believe he is certainly learning the toughest lesson of his life.
Defense attorneys had pushed for probation rather prison time for Dr. Murray, arguing that Michael Jackson could have taken more propofol when his doctor had already left the room.
At the sentencing, Murray's lawyers made a brief statement on the death of Michael Jackson. This is a tragedy, defense said. What Michael Jackson lost, and what his family lost, certainly deserves punishment.
Murray's lawyers went on, however, to contrast their client's book of life, which they describe as having exemplary medical service, with one chapter in treating Michael Jackson. Jackson was a drug seeker, they said, who had very evident power, money and influence to wield in his quest for narcotics.
What about that life [Dr. Murray's] life? ... What about before Michael Jackson? Murray's lawyers asked. They described his imprisonment as unjust, saying he isn't a danger to the community, and had spent 56 years of his life as an upright and law-abiding citizen who had a dedicated following of patients, including one who was a witness for the defense.
Now, his life will be forever altered for the worse. He's [always] going to be the doctor that killed Michael Jackson, the defense said. Does any of that matter at all?
'A cycle of horrible medicine.'
Judge Pastor began by noting the extreme portraits painted by both lawyers and Americans. Some view him as a martyr, many more as the devil incarnate. He is a human being, Judge Pastor said.
He also made it clear that the case was one of criminal negligence and criminal homicide, not simply medical malpractice. He noted the recklessness and knowledge of risk that distinguished criminal negligence in this case. His or her act [in criminal negligence cases] amounts to disregard for human life, or for indifference to the consequences of that act, the judge said.
This is not a question of what might have happened, Judge Pastor said. That is an insult to the medical profession. The fact is that Michael Jackson died because of the actions of... Dr. Murray.
He condemned the doctor for a cycle of horrible medicine and a reoccurring pattern of deceit and lies to benefit himself over the needs of his patient, amounting to an astounding set of circumstances involving not only the crime itself but its extensive coverup.
Judge Pastor finished by highlighting one aspect of the evidence: the cvoert recording of Michael Jackson by Dr. Conrad Murray. I have repeatedly asked myself: Why did this happen, and for what reason? The judge condemned the recording as Murray's insurance policy taht indicated his failure of character as a doctor. Judge Pastor saw the tape as Murray's way of justifying his treatment of Jackson through a horrific violation of trust.
Judge Pastor closed his arguments by citing the defendant's lack of remorse. Talk about blaming the victim! Judge Pastor said about Murray's position as a bystander and accomplice more than an actor in Jackson's death.
Dr. Murray listened without expression to the judge's remarks, hands clasped under his chin. Occassionally, however, Murray nodded or shook his head, and appeared to be close to tears.
Judge Pastor denied probation to Dr. Murray, saying he was constrained by the current case and could not take the defendant's past actions as a doctor into account. You can't have probation when there isn't an acknowledgement [of fault], he said.
At this point, Dr. Murray bowed his head before clasping his hands once again under his chin, frowning at the table. His eyes were pained, and he appeared alternately ashamed and incredulous as the judge pronounced sentence.
Judge Pastor handed down the maximum penalty, sentencing Dr. Murray to four years in prison and arguing that he continues to be a threat to society as a medical professional. I have no idea what will or will not prompt Dr. Murray to make a reckless decision... in the future, the judge said.
Judge Pastor did not order restitution to Jackson's family, but said he would be happy to revisit the case at a later date when a more detailed case was presented.
Murray's sentence will be carried out at the Los Angeles County Jail. He will have 60 days to appeal the judge's sentencing, and will pay an $800 resitution fine for court costs. He will now be a registered felon.
It should be made very clear that experimental medicine will not be tolerated, the judge said. Michael Jackson was an experiment.