LOS ANGELES — The doctor convicted of killing Michael Jackson has been sentenced to the maximum term of four years behind bars.
Dr. Conrad Murray was sentenced Tuesday, three weeks after a jury convicted the cardiologist of involuntary manslaughter. The judge chastised him for a “horrific violation of trust” in caring for Jackson.
Prosecutors had urged the judge to sentence the doctor to the maximum, arguing his treatment of Jackson with a powerful anesthetic ended the life of the King of Pop and left his three children without a father.
Attorneys for the 58-year-old Murray argued that probation was a more appropriate sentence, given his lack of a criminal history and the fact he will lose his medical license.
Murray could serve half of the four years because of overcrowding in California jails.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
Michael Jackson’s family told a judge Tuesday that they were not seeking revenge but want the doctor who killed the superstar to receive a stiff sentence that serves as a warning to opportunistic doctors.
“The Bible reminds us that men cannot do justice, they can only seek justice,” the family said in a statement read by attorney Brian Panish. “That is all we can ask as a family, and that is all we ask for here.”
The statement went on to say, “We are not here to seek revenge. There is nothing you can do today that will bring Michael back.”
Panish did not specifically request the maximum term of four years in jail for Murray but said the cardiologist should be punished in a way that reminds physicians that they cannot sell their services to the highest bidder.
Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor was expected to sentence Murray later in the day after hearing from lawyers on both sides of the case.
Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after a six-week trial that presented the most detailed account yet of Jackson’s final hours but left many questions about Murray’s treatment of the superstar with an operating-room anesthetic as he battled chronic insomnia.
Prosecutors want Pastor to sentence Murray to a maximum four-year term that likely would be cut at least in half due to jail overcrowding. Defense attorneys want probation for the cardiologist, saying he will lose his ability to practice medicine and likely face a lifetime of ostracism.
Several members of Jackson’s family, including mother Katherine and siblings LaToya, Jermaine, Randy and Rebbie, attended the sentencing.
Deputy District Attorney David Walgren also asked Pastor to consider statements Jackson’s mother, Katherine, made to probation officials who prepared a report for the sentencing.
He said Katherine Jackson said she thinks about her son every morning and that his children also think about their father daily.
“`Their world collapsed when he left,’” Walgren quoted Katherine Jackson as telling probation officials.
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.
The doctor decided not to directly address the court.
Chernoff again attacked Michael Jackson, as he and his team frequently did during the doctor’s trial.
“Michael Jackson was a drug seeker,” Chernoff said.
Jackson’s death in June 2009 stunned the world, as did the ensuing investigation that led to Murray being charged in February 2010.
Murray told detectives he had been giving the singer nightly doses of propofol to help him sleep as he prepared for a series of comeback concerts. Propofol is supposed to be used in hospital settings and has never been approved for sleep treatments, yet Murray acknowledged giving it to Jackson then leaving the room on the day the singer died.
Murray declined to testify during his trial but did opt to participate in a documentary in which he said he didn’t consider himself guilty of any crime and blamed Jackson for entrapping him into administering the propofol doses. His attorneys contended throughout the case that Jackson must have given himself the fatal dose when Murray left the singer’s bedside.
In their sentencing memorandum, prosecutors cited Murray’s statements to advocate that he receive the maximum term. They also want him to pay restitution to the singer’s three children – Prince, Paris and Blanket.
It’s unlikely that Murray can pay any sizable sum, including the $1.8 million cost of his funeral. He was deeply in debt when he agreed to serve as Jackson’s personal physician for $150,000 a month, and the singer died before Murray received any money.
Prosecutors said the relationship of Jackson and Murray was corrupted by greed. Murray left his practices to serve as Jackson’s doctor and look out for his well-being, but instead acted as an employee catering to the singer’s desire to receive propofol to put him to sleep, prosecutors said.
“The defendant has displayed a complete lack of remorse for causing Michael Jackson’s death,” prosecutors wrote in a filing last week. “Even worse than failing to accept even the slightest level of responsibility, (Murray) has placed blame on everyone else, including the one person no longer here to defend himself, Michael Jackson.”
Murray’s attorneys are relying largely on 34 letters from relatives, friends and former patients to portray Murray in a softer light and win a lighter sentence. The letters and defense filings describe Murray’s compassion as a doctor, including accepting lower payments from his mostly poor patients.
“There is no question that the death of his patient, Mr. Jackson, was unintentional and an enormous tragedy for everyone affected,” defense attorneys wrote in their sentencing memo. “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.”