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Prosecutor: Make doctor pay $100 million for Michael Jackson's death

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 7:22 PM EST, Thu November 24, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Dr. Conrad Murray has "displayed a complete lack of remorse," prosecutors say
  • NEW: My son is "saddened and remorseful," Murray's mother writes to the judge
  • Prosecution and defense lawyers file sentence memos in Murray's case
  • Judge Pastor is to sentence Murray on Tuesday

Los Angeles (CNN) -- When a judge sentences Dr. Conrad Murray next week for involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson, he can choose anything from simple probation to up to four years in prison plus a hefty payment.

Prosecutors, in a sentencing memo filed this week, asked for the maximum, four years behind bars. They also want Murray to pay Jackson's children more than $100 million in restitution.

Defense lawyers, in their filing, asked for probation, not prison time, in light of the "manifold collateral consequences" Murray is suffering because of the felony conviction, including the loss of his medical career.

A jury found Murray guilty this month of causing Jackson's death on June 25, 2009. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor set Tuesday for Murray's sentencing.

The coroner ruled Jackson died from a fatal combination of the surgical anesthetic propofol and sedatives, which prosecutors blamed on Murray's reckless efforts to help Jackson sleep.

Murray has "displayed a complete lack of remorse" about Jackson's death, and is "even worse, failing to accept even the slightest level of responsibility," deputy district attorneys David Walgren and Deborah Brazil wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday.

The prosecutors cited Murray's decision not to testify in his own defense, even while he was giving interviews for a documentary that aired days after the verdict.

"In each of these interviews, the defendant has very clearly stated that he bears no responsibility for Michael Jackson's death," the prosecutors said. "Moreover, the defendant has continued to express concern only for his individual plight and portrays himself, not the decedent, as the victim."

"I don't feel guilty because I did not do anything wrong," Murray said in the documentary quoted by the prosecution.

"Finally, the defendant consistently blames the victim for his own death, even going so far as to characterize himself as being 'entrapped' by the victim and as someone who suffered a 'betrayal' at the hands of the victim," the prosecutors said.

Jackson's death came as he was preparing for a series of comeback concerts in London, which the defense argued caused great pressure on the singer to seek sleep or risk having the concerts canceled.

The prosecutors contend in their sentencing memo that Murray should be ordered to pay Jackson's three children restitution for the subsequent "wage and profits lost," as provided under California's "victim's bill of rights" law.

"The (Michael Jackson) estate estimates Michael Jackson's projected earnings for the 50-show O2 concert series to be $100,000,000," the prosecutors said.

With nearly $2 million in funeral expenses and 10% interest added each year, the prosecution is asking Pastor to order Murray to pay Prince, Paris and Blanket Jackson more than $120 million in restitution.

While it is doubtful that Murray, who is unlikely to ever practice medicine again, could pay much of that sum, it could prevent him from reaping financial benefits from any books, interviews or film projects in the future.

The defense sentencing memo asking for probation and no jail time included a biography of Murray that described him as "a self-made man of humble origins."

"He was raised in a home that lacked indoor plumbing or electricity, and he walked to school barefoot for his first couple years of school," the defense said.

Murray paid his own way through medical school without scholarships or family funds, it said.

He worked as a doctor for 20 years, with "no prior contacts with the law," and many of his patients were elderly in low-income, underserved communities, the defense said.

"It seems reasonable that the transgression for which he is to be judged should be viewed within the context of the larger life of which it is a part," it said.

The defense filing challenges the prosecution's contention that Murray is not remorseful.

"Dr. Murray wishes to make it unmistakenly clear to everyone that he deeply mourns the loss of Michael Jackson's life, and he profoundly regrets any mistakes or oversights on his part that may have contributed to it," the defense said.

The judge should also consider "the manifold collateral consequences that Dr. Murray has sustained as a result of his mistake," the defense said, including the loss of his medical career, the public disgrace and loss of privacy.

"Dr. Murray has been described as a changed, grief-stricken man, who walks around under a pall of sadness since the loss of his patient, Mr. Jackson," the defense said.

The defense memo included a letter from Murray's elderly mother, Milta Rush. She sat in court for much of her son's trial, just a few feet away from Katherine Jackson, the mother of Michael Jackson.

"I sympathize with Mrs. Jackson as a mother," Rush wrote in a letter to the judge. "I sense she was very close to her son. I really wanted to approach her personally and tell her I am sorry for the loss of her son but I was unsure if she would be receptive, and I did not want to take the chance of violating court rules. I am sorry for all her loss."

While Murray's mother told the judge her son is "saddened and remorseful" about Jackson's death, she said "his compassion and his soft heartedness for others led to this dilemma."

The defense contends that Murray was trying to help Jackson, who was desperate for sleep so he could be ready for rehearsals. "His compassionate intentions should not be overlooked," it said.

"The victim was a willing recipient of the medications administered," the defense said. "In fact, Mr. Jackson had repeatedly begged Dr. Murray for propofol to overcome his insomnia so that he could sleep."

Murray does not pose a safety threat to the public, it said. "The likelihood of recurrence is essentially nonexistent since Conrad Murray's medical license has been suspended."

Aside from the arguments of what Murray deserves, the defense contends California's prison and jail overcrowding mean that "neither the space nor the public funds exist to continue imprisoning non-violent, non-dangerous offenders who do not need to be incapacitated for the sake of public safety."

"Dr. Murray is clearly such a defendant," the defense said. "He is an individual who remained free on bond for more than two years prior to the jury verdict, adhering assiduously to all of the bond conditions that had been imposed."

If Murray takes up a state prison or county jail cell, it "may mean that someone else with higher potential for violence will be released," the defense said.

Instead, the defense proposed that Murray could be sentenced to community service along with probation.

"Though he will perhaps not again be a doctor qualified to make diagnoses, he could educate and counsel patients about heart care and disease prevention," it said. "There are many non-profit clinics and organizations that would benefit from his participation, if ordered to perform community service as a condition of his sentence and a means of 'putting some water back into the public well.'"

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