Michael Jackson's personal physician was sentenced Tuesday to four years behind bars for the singer's June 2009 death from an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol, with the judge blasting the doctor for engaging in a "money-for-medicine'' experiment that killed the entertainer. and the
Dr. Conrad Murray, 58, Despite the four-year sentence, the exact amount of time the cardiologist will serve behind bars was unclear due to overcrowding in the county jail system, where he will spend his time.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor lashed out at Murray during the sentencing hearing, saying the doctor made an "egregious series of departures from the accepted standard of care'' that represented a "disgrace to the medical profession–an honorable profession which bears the blot, the scourge, of what happened here.''
"It should be made very clear that experimental medicine is not going to be tolerated,'' Pastor said."And Mr. Jackson was an experiment. The fact that he participated in it does not excuse or lessen the blame of Dr. Murray who simply could have walked away and said no as countless others did. Dr. Murray was intrigued by the prospect and he engaged in this money-for-medicine madness that is simply not going to be tolerated by me.''
Jackson, 50, died June 25, 2009, from an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol while he was in Los Angeles and under Murray's care preparing for 50 sold-out concerts in London. Prosecutors said Murray gave Jackson propofol on a nightly basis as a sleep aid for about two months, and on the night of his death, he administered a fatal dose before leaving the singer's bedroom to make phone calls and send emails.
Defense attorneys had asked that Murray be sentenced to probation, arguing in court papers that Murray "will forever be stigmatized as the doctor responsible'' for Jackson's death.
Defense attorney Edward Chernoff argued in court today that the judge should consider "a man's book of life, as opposed to one chapter.'' He said Murray had a history of community service, most notably opening a clinic in a financially depressed area of Houston, Texas.
"Michael Jackson was a drug-seeker and he sought it out from Dr. Murray who was wrong in providing it,'' Chernoff said. "... He (Jackson) was a powerful, famous, wealthy individual with lawyers, security and staff and advisers. Maybe he was vulnerable, maybe you agree with the prosecution. But what about before those two months? What about Dr. Murray's life before those two months before he was convinced ... to give Michael Jackson propofol. What about that life?''
Chernoff noted that Murray lifted himself from an impoverished childhood, put himself through college and medical school. In asking for probation, he noted that Murray will likely never practice medicine again, but he would be able to do some good for the community if he was not locked in a jail cell.
He also noted that Murray's reputation was likely already destroyed for life, because "whether he's a barista for the rest of his life, whether he's a greeter at Walmart,'' he will always be known as the man who killed Michael Jackson.
Brian Panish, an attorney for Jackson's family, read a statement to the court on behalf of the family during the hearing.
"There is no way to adequately describe the loss of our beloved father, son, brother and friend,'' according to the family's statement. "We still look at each other in disbelief. Is it really possible that he is gone? As Michael's parents, we could never have imagined that we would live to witness his passing. It is simply against the natural order of things. As his brothers and sisters, we will never be able to hold, laugh or perform again with our brother Michael. And as his children, we will grow up without a father, our best friend, our playmate and our dad.
"We are not here to seek revenge. There is nothing you can do here today to bring Michael back. But we will keep the love in our hearts that Michael embodied throughout his life. His passion was for unifying the world through the gift of his artistry. We respectfully request that you impose a sentence that reminds physicians that they cannot sell their services to the highest bidder and cast aside their Hippocratic oath to do no harm. As we all know from this tragedy, doing so can have devastating results. The Bible reminds us that men cannot do justice, they can only seek justice. That is all that we ask as a family. And that is all that we can ask for here.''
Deputy District Attorney David Walgren told Pastor during the hearing that Murray was determined to collect the $150,000-a-month salary he was expecting for his treatment of Jackson, even if it meant providing massive amounts of propofol to the singer over the two months preceding the singer's death.
He asked Pastor to consider "the events preceding the crime, the events of June 25 and the events after the crime.''
"Because this was not one solitary mistake of judgment or one solitary lack of attention,'' Walgren said. "This was a consistent pattern of behavior exhibited by Conrad Murray whereby he hoped for payment of $150,000 a month and in exchange he would provide propofol to Michael Jackson on a nearly nightly basis.''
Pastor said he had accepted Chernoff's invitation to look at the "book'' of Murray's life, but he found the doctor's actions to be so egregious that they greatly outweighed his past charitable actions and service to the community.
"I don't look to one isolated incident in terms of the misdeeds of Dr. Murray or the deeds of Dr. Murray, but insofar as this case is concerned, Dr. Murray engaged in a recurring, continuous pattern of deceit, of lies–and regrettably that pattern was to assist Dr. Murray,'' Pastor said. "It is almost inconceivable that Dr. Murray would have persisted in this pattern over such an extensive period of time. The lies, the deceit began and continued ... to build up an absolutely astounding set of circumstances.''
Pastor also lashed out at Murray for statements he made in an interview that aired after his conviction, but which was taped by a production crew during the trial. In the interview, Murray continues to deny doing anything wrong in his treatment of Jackson, and tries to point blame at the singer for his death.
"Talk about blaming the victim,'' Pastor said. "Not only isn't there any remorse, there's umbrage and outrage on the part of Dr. Murray against the decedent.''
While leaving the courthouse, Jackson's mother, Katherine, told reporters outside the courthouse that she was satisfied with the outcome of the trial and sentencing.
"The judge gave him the maximum,'' she said. "So I thank the judge and I thank the prosecutors, and I think everything went well.''
Jackson's brother, Jermaine, shouted as he walked by reporters, "100 years is not enough'' to punish Murray for the singer's death.
Defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan said after the sentencing hearing that Murray is "an honorable man and he will get through it.''
Asked if he thought Murray was a danger to society–as the judge described him in court, Flanagan answered, "Some people think he is apparently.''
He added, "You know, you never know. He could have bolted out of those courtroom doors and run down, punched that elevator and within five minutes got to the bottom floor and he could have gone out and injected a bunch of people with propofol. Do you really think he was a danger? He's led 56 years of exemplary life.''
–City News Service