The sentencing came nearly three weeks after a jury found Murray guilty of administering Jackson with a fatal dose of the powerful sedative Propofol on June 25, 2009. “Some may feel that this was a medical malpractice case. It wasn’t. And this jury found that Conrad Murray, with criminal negligence, caused the death of Michael Jackson,” Judge Michael Pastor said before revealing the sentence. “The fact is, Michael Jackson died because of the actions of, and the failures to perform legal duties on the part of, Conrad Murray.”
The judge also admonished Murray for his “horrific violation of trust” in treating Jackson. The defense was seeking a sentence that included probation but no jail time, but given the severity of the crime and the world-famous victim, the judge sided with the prosecution in delivering Murray his punishment. In addition to the sentence, Murray was also ordered to pay Jackson’s children a restitution estimated to be in the amount of $100 million, a sum that combines the cost of Michael’s funeral arrangements, plus the lost wages and earnings the singer didn’t collect because he died before his This Is It concerts began. The exact restitution, however, will be decided on a later court date.
While Jackson’s family members did not address the court, they collectively wrote up a statement, which family spokesman Brian Panish read to the judge. “There’s no way to adequately describe the loss of our beloved father, son, brother, and friend,” Panish said on behalf of the Jacksons. “As Michael’s parents, we never could 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 won’t be able to laugh, hold, or perform again with our brother Michael. And as his children, we will grow up without our father, our best friend, our playmate, and our dad.”
“We are not here to seek revenge, there is nothing you can do today to bring Michael back,” Panish continued. “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, doing so has devastating results… That is all that we can ask for as a family, and that is all that we can ask for here.”
With a sentence of merely probation a possible outcome, prosecutor David Walgren next took the podium to convince the court why Murray deserved four years behind bars. Walgren spoke of how the “careless and reckless behavior by Conrad Murray continued for two months before the death of Michael Jackson at the hands of Conrad Murray.” He added that Jackson’s death was a “direct result” of Murray’s actions, and that the doctor was constantly was playing a game of “Russian roulette” with Jackson’s life every time he administered sedatives to the singer. Walgren also accused Murray of trying to cover up his crime and lying to investigators.
In addition to the plea for an appropriate sentence, the prosecution also asked the court to make Murray pay an astounding $100 million restitution to the Jackson family. Even worse than the jail time and the restitution Murray will never be able to pay, however, is the fact that the doctor will inevitably have his medical license universally revoked, ensuring that he never treat another patient again and also crippling his financial means.
The defense, meanwhile, called no one to attest for Murray’s character, and the doctor himself declined to speak on his own behalf to plead for a lighter sentence. Lead defense attorney Ed Chernoff made a brief statement to lobby for probation, since Murray is a first-time offender with six children and patients that depend on him.
“We do not disagree with the prosecution that this is a tragedy, and what we lost with Michael Jackson and what his children lost certainly demands punishment. I do wonder, though, to what extent the court considers the entirety of a man’s book of life, as opposed to just one chapter. The two months Dr. Murray was treating Michael Jackson, he did so regrettably. He shouldn’t have done it.” Chernoff also called Jackson a “drug seeker,” and said his client, a 58-year-old cardiologist who was born “dirt poor” in the Caribbean, was lured by the King of Pop and the promise of wealth.
However, the judge was unaffected by Chernoff’s statements and proceeded to eviscerate Murray’s reputation in his critical and moving 15-minute decision. Pastor also condemned Murray for recording an audio tape of a weakened, drugged-out Jackson. “It was designed to tape his patient surreptitiously at that patient’s most vulnerable point,” the judge said. Pastor also explained why — even though Murray was eligible for probation — he was handing the doctor a jail sentence: Throughout the trial, Murray has shown “absolutely no remorse.” Pastor had been an interesting, colorful presence throughout Murray’s trial with his quirky requests to witnesses and his clashes with the defense, but his delivery of the sentence was both a magnificent encore and a stirring epilogue to this long ordeal for the Jackson family and Michael’s fans.
From the onset, Murray and his defense team asked the judge to ban the live television cameras in the courtroom during the sentencing process, since the testimony would threaten the “privacy interest of the defendant.” However, Judge Pastor cited Murray’s controversial MSNBC documentary as a reason to deny Murray’s request, adding that there is a “public interest” to Murray’s fate. It’s no surprise why Murray wanted to cameras off, though: The Jackson family statement, Walgren, and especially Pastor further permanently tarnished Murray’s reputation, which is something he won’t escape even after his sentence expires.
As The Amp previously reported, despite the judge’s harsh sentence, Murray will not spend any time in a federal penitentiary, thanks to overcrowding in the California penal system. Instead, since Murray was convicted of a non-violent felony, he’ll instead be transferred to a county jail, where sentences are routinely reduced. For example, there’s every instance where Lindsay Lohan is sentenced to spend 30 days in a county lockup and instead goes free after six hours. Additionally, because of the overcrowding, a new California law dictates that “low-risk” convicts charged with a lesser felony only have to serve half their sentence behind bars, and the other half on probation. For now, though, Jackson’s family and fans can take small solace in Murray receiving a max sentence.