'Absolutely remorseless': four years in jail for Jackson doctor
In the end, they threw the book at him. Conrad Murray, the private doctor convicted of killing Michael Jackson, was branded a "disgrace to the medical profession" last night, as a court in Los Angeles sentenced him to four years in prison.
It was the maximum possible penalty for involuntary manslaughter, the crime of which Murray was found guilty six weeks ago. Judge Michael Pastor handed it down in a speech which saw him complain that the defendant had displayed "absolutely no sense of remorse".
By agreeing to treat Jackson's insomnia with Propofol, a powerful anaesthetic that should never normally be used outside a hospital setting, Murray, who was being paid $150,000 a month (£96,000) for his services, engaged in "money-for-medicine madness", said Judge Pastor.
He also suggested Murray made an iPhone recording of the heavily-drugged singer so that he could blackmail him if they ever fell out. "That tape recording was Dr Murray's insurance policy," said Judge Pastor. He said the decision to keep the recording represented an "offensive" violation of medical ethics.
Yesterday's sentencing was held at Los Angeles Superior Court, half an hour's drive from the Holmby Hills mansion where Jackson died. The 50-year-old singer had been living there during rehearsals for a comeback tour.
Murray listened at the hearing to attacks on his personal and professional integrity. Judge Pastor said he was angered by a recent TV documentary, in which the doctor argued that Jackson bore responsibility for his own death. "Talk about blaming the victim. Not only is there no remorse, there is umbrage and outrage on the part of Murray," he said.
Prosecution lawyer David Walgren said the doctor had effectively conducted a two-month "pharmaceutical experiment" by agreeing to give Propofol to his vulnerable client. "The defendant was playing Russian roulette with Michael Jackson's life every single night," Mr Walgren said.
Murray will not serve four years behind bars. Because of California's shaky public finances, his sentence will automatically be cut in half and be served in a county jail, rather than the tougher State Prison.
He chose not to address court. But defence attorney Ed Chernoff said he was a law-abiding man dazzled by a "powerful, wealthy, famous" client. "For the first 56 years of his life Conrad Murray never committed a crime," Mr Chernoff added.
The court will reconvene in January to decide if Murray should pay Jackson's family compensation. The prosecution claims the singer's death cost some £65m in lost earnings and funeral expenses.
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