Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s personal physician, has been sentenced to four years in jail and denied probation for his conviction on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the pop star’s death.
Michael Pastor, Los Angeles superior court judge, gave Murray the maximum sentence on Tuesday and said that the physician engaged in “money for medicine madness that is simply not acceptable to me”.
Murray, 58, sat emotionless through the sentencing. Just before being led out from the courtroom, he blew a kiss to an unidentified woman who shouted “we love you” to the convicted doctor.
“The defendant was playing Russian roulette with Michael Jackson’s life every single night.”
– David Walgren, district attorney
Outside the courtroom, Jackson’s mother Katherine, who regularly attended Murray’s trial, said “the judge was fair”.
“Four years is not enough for someone’s life. It won’t bring him [Jackson] back, but at least he [Murray] got the maximum” sentence, Katherine Jackson told reporters.
Jackson, who rose to fame in the late 1960s and ’70s as a member of the Jackson Five and had a stellar solo career in the 1980s, died of a drug overdose in June 2009, principally from the use of the surgical anesthetic propofol as a sleep aid.
The drug had been obtained and administered to Jackson by Murray at the singer’s rented home.
A jury convicted Murray of involuntary manslaughter, or gross negligence, after witnesses testified propofol should not be administered at home and, if it is, must be given only with the proper life-monitoring equipment on hand. It was not.
Key to the sentencing were several factors including money – Murray had negotiated a $150,000 per month salary to care for Jackson ahead of a series of concerts in London – and a TV documentary made during the trial, but aired after it was over, in which Murray denied any feelings of guilt.
“Not only isn’t there any remorse, there’s umbrage and outrage on the part of Dr. Murray against the decedent,” judge Pastor said while noting the documentary.
Deputy District Attorney David Walgren argued that Murray should not be given leniency. He said the doctor was negligent from the moment he began to care for Jackson, and after finding Jackson lifeless in his bed on June 25, 2009, Murray failed to quickly call paramedics, hid evidence of propofol and lied about its use to emergency room doctors.
“The defendant was playing Russian roulette with Michael Jackson’s life every single night,” Walgren said.
Defence attorney Ed Chernoff sought leniency, saying the crime was Murray’s first and he had a long history of quality treatment to patients.
He asked the judge to look at Murray’s “book of life” and not just the one chapter regarding Jackson.
“He can do things for the community on probation. Things that he could never do sitting in a jail cell,” Chernoff said.
He also said Murray will suffer from the infamy of his conviction for the death of a man who was so famous and beloved by so many people.
“Whether he is a barista. Whether he’s a greeter at Wal-Mart, he’s really going to be the man who killed Michael Jackson,” Chernoff said.
Judge Pastor disagreed with Murray’s defence team and said that he engaged in a “pattern of lies” that were a “disgrace to the medical profession”.
In a news conference after the sentencing, defence attorney J. Michael Flanagan said he believed Pastor was “openly hostile” to Murray during the trial and sentencing.
District Attorney Steve Cooley, whose office prosecuted Murray, noted that overcrowding in area jails would lessen the four years considerably.
“Dr. Murray’s sentence, in terms of true incarceration, might be very short,” he told reporters.
How long Murray stays behind bars is up to the the Los Angeles County sheriff who oversees the jails packed with offenders of violent crimes. Inmates convicted of non-violent crimes such as Murray’s can be discharged by the sheriff to ease overcrowding.
In addition, Murray was ordered to pay some court fees, and another hearing was set for prosecution claims that he may owe more than $100m in restitution to Jackson’s family.