LOS ANGELES – The doctor convicted of killing Michael Jackson was sentenced to four years in jail on Tuesday.
In scathing words, Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor described Dr. Conrad Murray as "reckless" and a liar, someone who is a "danger to the community" with "no sense of remorse and no sense of fault" for Jackson's death.
Calling him "a disgrace to the medical profession … an honorable profession which bears the scourge of what happened here," Pastor also ruled that Murray would be required to make restitution to the estate of Jackson, his children and other family members. The amount will be determined at a later date.
The judge repeatedly chastised Murray for what he called a "horrific violation of trust" while caring for Jackson.
"Experimental medicine is not going to be tolerated, and Mr. Jackson was an experiment," Pastor said. "The fact that (Jackson) participated in it does not excuse or lessen the pain for Dr. Murray, who simply could have walked away or said no as countless others did."
Murray, 58, did not speak on his behalf and sat stone-faced with his hands crossed through the sentencing hearing, which began with a collective statement from the Jackson family read by attorney and family friend Brian Panish.
There is "no way to adequately describe the loss of" Jackson, the statement said, questioning whether it is "really possible that he is gone?"
"It is simply against the natural order of things," the statement said.
"There is nothing you can do today that will bring Michael back," the statement said. But the family asked for "justice," and in a pre-sentencing interview, mother Katherine Jackson asked for the maximum four years allowed by law.
Several members of Jackson's family, including Katherine and siblings LaToya, Jermaine, Randy and Rebbie, attended the proceedings.
After sentencing, Murray mouthed the words "I love you" to his mother and girlfriend in the courtroom.
Murray's mother, Mita Rush, sat alone on a bench in the courthouse hallway after the sentencing.
"My son is not what they charged him to be," she said quietly. "He was a gentle child from the time he was small. "
Of her son's future, she said, "God is in charge."
Pastor said one of the most disturbing aspects of the case — "one aspect stands out the most" — was "the surreptitious recording of Michael Jackson by his trusted doctor." The slurred recording of Jackson was recovered from the doctor's cell phone.
"I have repeatedly asked myself why this happened and for what reason?" Pastor said, adding that he could only speculate that the recording was "Dr. Murray's insurance policy."
"It was designed to record his patient surreptitiously at that patient's most vulnerable point," Pastor said. "I can't even imagine that happening to any of us because of the horrific violation of trust, and I can't help but wonder that if there had been conflict" between Dr. Murray and Jackson "what value would have been placed on that tape recording."
Defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan said after the sentencing that he was surprised the judge focused on the recording. The lawyer also contended that nothing said during the hearing would have changed the judge's mind about the sentence.
During the hearing lead defense attorney Ed Chernoff highlighted the accomplishments of Murray.
"I do wonder, though, to what extent the court considers the entirety of a man's book of life, as opposed to one chapter," he told the judge.
Jail time for Murray wouldn't change things, Chernoff said.
"Whether he's a barista for the rest of his life, whether he's a greeter at Walmart, he's still going to be the man that killed Michael Jackson," Chernoff said.
Jackson died in a bedroom at his mansion on June 25, 2009, of an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol. Murray was convicted Nov. 7 of involuntary manslaughter after a six-week trial. Jurors found that Murray caused Jackson's death through criminal negligence. Prosecutor David Walgren argued that Murray violated medical standards in using propofol as a sleep aid at Jackson's home without proper monitoring and resuscitation equipment. Walgren said Murray delayed for 20 minutes before phoning 911 and lied to rescue personnel about what drugs he gave.
After the verdict was delivered, Pastor said the doctor posed a danger to society and ordered him handcuffed and removed to jail pending sentencing. Murray spent three weeks in the Twin Towers county jail facility in downtown Los Angeles.
Involuntary manslaughter, the least serious form of homicide in California, carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison. But because of a change in state law he will serve his term in the county jail and could be released much sooner because of overcrowding.
Sheriff's officials said Tuesday Murray will serve a little less than two years behind bars while housed in a one-man cell and kept away from other prisoners.
"This is going to be a real test of our criminal justice system to see if it's meaningful at all," District Attorney Steve Cooley said.
Cooley said he was considering asking the judge to modify the sentence to classify the crime as a serious felony warranting incarceration in state prison.
In papers filed with the court Nov. 23, prosecutors asked Pastor to give Murray the maximum prison term and order him to pay restitution of $101.8 million to Jackson's estate. That amount would represent the $100 million the pop star would have earned from the 50-concert This Is It comeback series in London for which he was rehearsing, and $1.8 million in funeral and memorial service costs.
Also, the prosecutors said, Murray should get a stiff sentence because he showed no remorse in TV interviews, including a Today Show appearance where he said, "I don't feel guilty because I did not do anything wrong."
In a filing by the defense, lawyer Nareg Gourjian asked Pastor to sentence Murray leniently, to probation. Jackson's death was "an atypical and isolated aberration to an otherwise exceptional medical career," Murray's lawyers said. The likely loss of Murray's medical licenses in four states, and public contempt that included death threats, was punishment enough, the attorneys said.
"Dr. Murray's life will never be the same," the plea for probation said. "He will forever be stigmatized as the doctor responsible for the death of Michael Jackson."
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said after the verdict that Murray as a non-violent offender probably would spend any imprisonment in a county jail rather than a state penitentiary under a recent change in state law. County prisoners often are released short of their sentence terms to relieve overcrowding.
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