'Propofol madness': Conrad Murray gets 4 years for Michael Jackson death
A judge, citing 'propofol madness,' sentenced physician Conrad Murray Tuesday to four years, the maximum punishment allowed, for his role in the 2009 death of pop superstar Michael Jackson.
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Earlier in the hearing, defense attorney Edward Chernoff urged the judge to consider the totality of Murray’s life – the fact that he’d risen from poverty in Grenada, put himself through college and medical school, and had built a successful medical practice. Murray opened a clinic in a poor neighborhood in Houston as a community service.Skip to next paragraph
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“I think it should matter what Dr. Murray has done with his life,” Mr. Chernoff said.
He added that regardless of any sentence meted out by the court, Murray would face open-ended punishment. “Dr. Murray, whether he is a barista or a greeter at Wal-Mart, for the rest of his life will be the man who killed Michael Jackson.”
Walgren, the prosecutor, emphasized the seriousness of Murray’s actions. “The defendant was playing Russian roulette with Michael Jackson’s life every single night,” he told the judge.
Perhaps the most effective advocate against showing mercy for Murray was Murray himself. Judge Pastor noted that Murray and his defense lawyers allowed a documentary film crew to follow them behind the scenes during Murray’s trial.
At one point, Murray was asked on film whether he felt guilty that Jackson had died. Murray replied: “I don’t feel guilty because I did not do anything wrong.”
The judge seized on the statement. “You can’t have probation when there is no acknowledgment of responsibility [for the crime],” Pastor said.
At trial, prosecutors presented testimony and evidence that showed Murray agreed in 2009 to suspend his private practice as a cardiologist to serve as Jackson’s personal doctor during Jackson's expected year-long concert series in London. Murray was set to receive $150,000 a month.
In the run-up to the concerts, Jackson, 50, faced extreme pressures in rehearsals and was unable to sleep. He persuaded Murray to give him nightly infusions of the surgical anesthetic propofol his bedroom. The nightly infusions continued for two months until his death.
Propofol is not a recognized treatment for insomnia, and medical experts testified that it should be administered only in a hospital-like setting with a full array of vital signs monitoring devices and resuscitation equipment.
Jackson’s bedroom was equipped with an IV stand and oxygen, but lacked alarmed monitoring devices and standard emergency equipment.
The jury at Murray’s trial heard evidence that the doctor had ordered more than four gallons of propofol during the two-month period he was caring for Jackson.
Prosecutors told the jury that after Jackson was sedated on June 25, 2009, Murray turned his attention elsewhere to make and return phone calls and e-mails. At about noon, while talking on the phone to one of his girlfriends, Murray realized Jackson was no longer breathing. Prosecutors say Murray attempted to conceal evidence of the propofol use before calling 911 for paramedic assistance. They say he waited at least 20 minutes before asking someone to summon help.
In addition, prosecutors say, Murray failed to disclose to paramedics and emergency room physicians fighting to save Jackson’s life that the pop star had been given doses of propofol earlier that morning.
The medical examiner later concluded that Jackson died of “acute propofol intoxication” enhanced by sedatives also administered by Murray.
Murray’s lawyers argued at trial that the doctor had given Jackson only a relatively small dose of propofol on June 25. They said Jackson, frustrated by his inability to sleep, administered the fatal dose himself.
The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for 10 hours before declaring Murray guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
In a statement at the start of the Tuesday’s hearing, a Jackson family spokesman delivered a brief message to the court.
“There is nothing you can do to bring Michael back,” the spokesman said. But the family urged the judge to issue a sentence that would remind physicians of their responsibility to promote the health of their patients rather than “sell their services to the highest bidder.”
The statement concluded: “The Bible reminds us that men cannot do justice, we can only seek justice. That is all we ask.”
IN PICTURES: Michael Jackson: King of Pop