Today in Los Angeles Supreme Court, Conrad Murray was sentenced to four years in the Los Angeles County Jail, for his involuntary manslaughter of Michael. The hearing was televised.
Judge Pastor discussed the characterisation of Involuntary Manslaughter for the benefit of the public, with the emphasis on a new statute, which became law in October.
Brian Panich read a ‘victim impact statement’ on behalf of the Jackson family, requesting justice.
Mr Walgren for the Prosecution spoke first, itemising the facts of the case as it had been presented to the jury. He spoke of the injustice of a probation sentence, calling to mind the judge’s own words that this homicide was not a mistake of judgement; it was a serious crime which resulted in the death of a human being. Michael was a vulnerable patient who expected and trusted Murray to monitor him while he slept. It was beyond question, Mr Walgren said, that Murray was an active participant in his death.
His planning of the crime was obvious as he had ordered vast quantities of Propofol, which were to be sent to his girlfriend’s home, not a medical office, as he told the supplier. He kept no medical records of his actions. He administered the drug for a full two months, playing Russian Roulette with Michael’s life.
On the day in question, after administering it, he left Michael unsupervised and alone, he abandoned him, and he died. He found Michael was not breathing after he had spent an unconscionable amount of time on the phone, to his lady friends. Then he made no effort to help Michael.
He began to clean up the scene, hiding evidence. He failed for twenty minutes to call for help. He lied repeatedly to the paramedics and the staff at UCLA, and even to Katherine Jackson, telling her and the family he did not know what had happened that day. It was only two days later that he told the police in his statement that he had administered Propofol.
This crime had involved callousness, he had no equipment available to deal with the Propofol, he had no personnel to help him, and while Michael lay dying, he was making social calls to his girlfriends. He had kept no medical records as he knew he was risking Michael’s life.
Nurse Lee had said that Michael knew he would be alright so long as he was monitored, but Murray left him alone and he died in his bed. This negligence did not simply happen on that one day, but before, during and after the crime. Murray did not look out for Michael, he looked out for Conrad Murray.
Mr Walgren next spoke of the restitution required by law, involving monetary amounts for funeral expenses, lost wages and earnings. In this unique situation, Michael personal earnings from his tour would have been in the region of one hundred million dollars, according to a letter received from Howard Weitzman, the attorney for the Estate. Michael’s funeral expenses were in the region of $1.8million.
Victims of this crime are entitled to restitution, and Michael’s children are those victims. There would also be the question of attorney’s fees to consider.
Mr Walgren asked the judge to consider Murray’s lack of remorse and personal responsibility for his crime, citing Murray’s appearance in his documentary nine days before the verdict was announced. He had been asked if he felt any responsibility for Michael’s death, to which he had replied, “I don’t feel guilty because I did not do anything wrong.”
Mrs Katherine Jackson had told a probation officer that she thought of Michael daily, he is her first thought when she wakes up every day. She also recalled Paris saying to her dead father, “I want to go with you.” Mr Walgren also recalled that on the first year anniversary of Michael’s death, Murray had gone to the cemetery with a film crew to be photographed there.
Mrs Jackson wants Murray to receive the maximum sentence of four years imprisonment and also restitution from Murray.
Mr Chernoff spoke next on behalf of Murray, who had declined to speak for himself. He spoke about Murray’s poor childhood, his education, his practice as a doctor and the patients for whom he had cared. A 45 page memorandum and letters of support from past patients had been submitted to Judge Pastor. Chernoff said the Murray knew he had made terrible mistakes during the two months from April to June 2005. But Michael was a drug seeker, powerful and famous.
Judge Pastor, said Mr Chernoff should consider the good life Murray had led up to the time of meeting Michael, never having committed a crime. He had been in private practice for eight years, and always had a positive influence on people’s lives. Now he will always be considered as the man who killed Michael Jackson. Perhaps, said My Chernoff, when the ‘glow of vengeance’ has faded, if he is given probation, he could help the community in some role.
Judge Pastor asked Mr Chernoff what the restitution figures meant to his client. He replied that if Murray could work, he would attempt to pay, but would never be able to repay such vast amounts of money.
Judge Pastor addressed the court, saying that it was his responsibility to impose a just and proper sentence. Both the prosecution and the defense said that Murray did not commit this crime deliberately. Is Murray a saint or a devil? He is neither, but he is responsible for gross negligence in this case. This was not an isolated incident but a recurring pattern of deceit and lies. It was inconceivable that this could have continued over such a long period of time.
This was an astounding set of circumstances:- his lies to the pharmacy providing the Propofol, his intentional deception of Michael’s production team, AEG, plus personal and professional associates. Also, the unconscionable lies to the paramedics and staff at UCLA. All of these things were aimed at giving Conrad Murray a way out, and to subvert the process of the law.
Considering Involuntary Manslaughter, the judge said that maybe something had gone wrong, but what had to be considered were the totality of the circumstances and Murray’s failure to serve his patient.
Why and for what reason did he record his patient’s voice? This highly offensive behaviour, recording Michael at his most vulnerable point, was an horrific violation of trust. It must have been his insurance policy! Perhaps something that could be used against Michael Jackson. Was it just a failure of his own character?
The jury had decided unanimously that this was not malpractice, it was criminal negligence. Murray had acted with disregard or indifference for human life. Michael Jackson died because of the actions of Conrad Murray.
The judge said that he had been impressed by the submissions of the prosecution and the defence. He had read the, “Book of Conrad Murray’s life and the book of Michael Jackson’s life.” Michael had died, however, because of Murray’s treatment, or lack of treatment, not by accident, but because of a series of decisions he had made. His violations in this case over-rode his treatment of other patients. He had created ‘circumstances of horrible medicine, using Propofol for medicine madness,’ and for ‘money, fame and prestige.’
The medical profession cares for us, so what happened to Conrad Murray?
“Yikes! Talk about blaming the victim!” – Pastor referring to Michael, regarding Murray saying he felt betrayed and entrapped by Michael, in the documentary.
Judge Pastor said that he had tremendous concern that Murray had shown no remorse, so he would not consider probation. He had violated the trust and confidence of Michael Jackson, who had put him in the position of being responsible for his life. He had abandoned his patient. He had committed an unacceptable and egregious deviation from the required standards of care.
Judge Pastor went on to say that, “Probation was denied. Murray would serve the appropriate period of incarceration. The Court had no legal authority to commit him to the State prison, so he would serve four years in the Los Angeles County Jail. If he were to practice medicine anywhere, he is a danger to the community. Experimental medicine will not be tolerated! Murray could have walked away and said no! But he did it for money.”
Murray would have to pay the appropriate court costs, and as a convicted felon would give the required blood and DNA samples.
At a later hearing, within 120 days, Judge Pastor will order the amounts of restitution Murray will have to pay to Michael’s children, after further investigations have been made.