Michael Jackson's doctor to serve halved sentence
'Dr. Murray engaged in a recurring, continuous pattern of deceit and lies': judge
Conrad Murray, who served as Michael Jackson's personal physician before the pop superstar's 2009 death, will serve less than two years in jail in Los Angeles, despite being sentenced to four years of incarceration for his involuntary manslaughter conviction.
Sheriff's officials said Tuesday that Murray will serve a little less than two years, housed in a one-man cell and kept at a distance from other prisoners.
Nicole Nishida, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, said the doctor's sentence is automatically being cut in half due to state laws.
Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor issued his ruling, with members of Jackson's family — including his mother Katherine and siblings LaToya, Jermaine, Randy and Rebbie — present in the courtroom.
Murray sat stone-faced as the sentence was handed down.
"This is not a question about what might have happened or what if someone else had been involved if it hadn’t been Dr. Murray," Pastor said in a lengthy and vehement ruling statement.
"The fact is Michael Jackson died because of the actions of and the failure to perform legal duties on the part of Dr. Murray, not some other medical doctor."
The judge blasted Murray, saying he "became involved in a cycle of horrible medicine" and "engaged in a recurring, continuous pattern of deceit and lies" to assist himself alone.
Pastor singled out the shocking audio recording — discovered on Murray's cellphone — of a drugged and slurring Jackson as a damning indication of how the physician's actions betrayed the singer's trust in him.
"Of everything I heard and saw during the course of the trial, one piece of evidence stands out the most and that is the surreptitious recording of Michael Jackson by his trusted physician," Pastor said.
"That tape recording was Dr. Murray's insurance policy. It was designed ... to record his patient at his most vulnerable point," the judge said, decrying the recording as a violation of trust.
"Dr. Murray abandoned his patient. This is an unacceptable, egregious series of departures from the appropriate standard of care, which undermined the doctor-patient relationship and are a disgrace to the medical profession, an honourable profession."
The four-year sentence — the highest for a conviction of involuntary manslaughter in California — is to be served in a Los Angeles County jail under the supervision of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deparment. Murray is being credited 46 days for time served.
Pastor acknowledged that, due to state laws, the exact amount of time the 59-year-old Murray will spend incarcerated was beyond his control.
No probation because of Murray's TV comments
Following a six-week trial, a jury found Murray guilty of involuntary manslaughter on Nov. 7, blaming him for the fatal overdose of the anesthetic propofol that killed 50-year-old Jackson in June 2009. Though the powerful anesthetic is normally used to induce unconsciousness during surgery, Murray was administering it to Jackson as a sleep aid.
Defence attorneys had argued for a sentence of probation and community service for the cardiologist, pointing out the 35 letters praising Murray's character they had submitted to the court and arguing that he will likely lose his medical licence and face ostracism for the rest of his life.
However, both prosecutors and Pastor raised Murray's assertions that he didn't feel he was guilty of any crime and his statement that Jackson entrapped him into administering propofol — opinions he professed in a recently broadcast TV documentary program filmed just over a week before his conviction.
"He has absolutely no remorse, absolutely no sense of fault and remains dangerous," the judge said, explaining his decision against a sentence of probation.
"It should be made very clear that experimental medicine is not going to be tolerated," Pastor continued.
"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."
Ordered to pay fees until restitution hearing
On Tuesday, Pastor also ordered Murray to pay:
- A $800 US restitution fine.
- A $30 US court security fee.
- A $40 US criminal conviction assessment.
In addition to the maximum sentence possible, prosecutors had also sought restitution for Jackson's three children: Prince, Paris and Blanket.
Deputy District Attorney David Walgren appealed to the court to order Murray to pay the $1.8-million US cost of Jackson's memorial service, funeral and burial, as well as $100 million in anticipated earnings that the singer was projected to receive for his This Is It comeback concert series.
However, due to the complex nature of the finances for these events, Pastor scheduled a separate restitution hearing for Jan. 23, which Murray declined to attend.