NEW: Dr. Murray's release date is projected for late 2013, the sheriff's spokesman says
NEW: "We will grow up without a father, our best friend, our playmate and our dad," Jackson's children say
Murray gets the maximum sentence
He was convicted three weeks ago in the death of pop singer Michael Jackson
Dr. Conrad Murray was sentenced Tuesday to four years in the Los Angeles County jail – the maximum sentence allowed under the law – in the death of Michael Jackson. He may serve no more than two, however.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor, in a lengthy statement delivered before sentencing Murray for involuntary manslaughter, said he felt a significant responsibility to determine the appropriate sentence, utilizing his “sense of fairness and decency.”
“There are those who feel Dr. Murray is a saint,” Judge Pastor said. “There are those who feel Dr. Murray is the devil. He’s neither. He’s a human being. He stands convicted of the death of another human being.”
Automatic credit for good behavior lowers the actual time served to two years, which puts his projected release date in late 2013, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
Murray is not eligible for early release electronic monitoring or house arrest, which some county prisoners get under a federal court order aimed at reducing jail overcrowding, Whitmore said. “He does not meet our requirements for any kind of home monitoring,” he said.
Members of Jackson’s family, who sat in court for Tuesday’s sentencing, appeared pleased with the judge’s decision to ignore defense pleas for leniency.
A statement from the family, read in court by a lawyer, said they were “not here to seek revenge,” but they wanted 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.”
It included a message to the judge from Jackson’s three children, Prince, Paris and Blanket.
“We will grow up without a father, our best friend, our playmate and our dad,” the children said.
Defense lawyer Ed Chernoff acknowledged that it was unlikely Pastor would accept probation for Murray, but he still made a case for community service over time behind bars.
“He could do things for the community on probation that he could never do sitting in that little room,” Chernoff said.
Even without jail time, Chernoff said, he will suffer the rest of his life because of the loss of his medical career and the stigma of the conviction.
“Whether he is a barista the rest of his life, whether he is a greeter at Walmart, he’s still going to be the man who killed Michael Jackson for the rest of his life,” Chernoff said.
Deputy District Attorney David Walgren, arguing for the maximum four years in jail, said Murray was “playing Russian roulette with Michael Jackson’s life every single night,” by using the surgical anesthetic propofol to put him to sleep in “a reckless, obscene manner.”
Murray showed his lack of remorse or acceptance of his personal responsibility in an interview nine days before he was found guilty, Walgren said.
“I don’t feel guilty because I did not do anything wrong,” Murray said in a documentary aired days after he was convicted.
Pastor delivered a 30-minute explanation of why he was sentencing Murray to the maximum jail time, even though the doctor was technically eligible for probation.
Murray’s “faux documentary” made it appear he was just a “bystander” in Jackson’s death who was “entrapped” and “betrayed” by his patient, Pastor said.
“Yikes! Talk about blaming the victim,” he said. “Not only isn’t there any remorse, there’s umbrage and outrage on the part of Dr. Murray against the decedent, without any, any indication of the slightest involvement in this case.”
Pastor said that while he had considered the entire “book” of Murray’s life, he also had “read the book of Michael Jackson’s life.”
“Regrettably, as far as Dr. Murray is concerned, the most significant chapter, as it relates to this case, is the chapter involving the treatment, or lack of treatment, of Michael Jackson.”
Jackson died “not because of an isolated one-off occurrence or incident,” Pastor said. “He died because of a totality of circumstances which are directly attributable to Dr. Murray … because of a series of decisions that Dr. Murray made.”
Murray, he said, became involved in “a cycle of horrible medicine.”
He cited Murray’s “pattern of deceit and lies. That pattern was to assist Dr. Murray.”
A tape recording of Jackson’s slurred voice was Murray’s “insurance policy,” Pastor said. “It was designed to record his patient surreptitiously at that patient’s most vulnerable point. I can’t even imagine that happening to any of us because of the horrific violation of trust.”
He said he wondered whether that tape would have been offered for sale, had Jackson not died and a rift had developed between the two in the future.
One of the 12 jurors who found Murray guilty said in an interview airing Tuesday on HLN’s “Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell,” that the recording did not play into the verdict.
“We talked about that audio a little bit,” Debbie Franklin, known as “Juror 5,” said. “We didn’t really understand why it was presented. I still do not understand what that was about.”
Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter three weeks ago after a trial in which prosecutors successfully argued that Murray’s reckless use of propofol to help Jackson sleep, without proper monitoring equipment, led to the singer’s death.
“We had decided the three issues we were going to focus on were the not calling 911, not having the medical equipment and him leaving the room,” Franklin said. “That was the bottom line for this case.”
Testimony during the trial revealed that Murray gave propofol nearly every night in the two months before the singer’s death on June 25, 2009, as Jackson prepared for his comeback concerts set for London the next month.
The judge set a hearing for January 23 to decide on the prosecution’s request that Murray be ordered to pay Jackson’s estate and his children more than $100 million in restitution for the “wage and profits lost,” as provided under California’s “victim’s bill of rights” law.
The singer’s “estate estimates Michael Jackson’s projected earnings for the 50-show O2 concert series to be $100 million,” 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 very much of that sum, it could prevent him from reaping financial benefits from any books, interviews or film projects in the future.