LOS ANGELES (AFP) ― Michael Jackson’s doctor Conrad Murray is due back in court on Tuesday for sentencing, facing up to four years in prison after being convicted over the King of Pop’s 2009 death.
Prosecutors want Murray to get the maximum jail term and be ordered to compensate the Jackson family for the star’s loss of earnings, estimated at $100 million for the comeback shows he was preparing when he died.
But the 58-year-old medic’s lawyer Ed Chernoff asked in submissions to court last week for his client to be given parole and community service, underlining that he will likely never practice medicine again.
“To subject this former doctor, described by all who know him as a gentleman who devoted his professional life to providing care to the underserved population, to a lengthy jail term would be wholly inappropriate,” he wrote.
Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on November 7 for having given Jackson an overdose of the anesthetic propofol on June 25, 2009 at his plush Holmby Hills mansion to help him fight chronic insomnia.
Jackson, aged 50 at the time of his death, had hired Murray at a salary of $150,000 a month to look after him as he rehearsed and embarked on a series of planned comeback shows in London.
During the trial, the court heard a two-hour police interview with Murray in which he recounted the star’s final days and hours, and claimed he found Jackson lifeless after leaving his bedside for only two minutes.
But it also heard evidence that Murray was on the phone with a series of girlfriends at the crucial time Jackson was on his deathbed, and that he delayed calling 911 and failed to tell paramedics what he had given the star.
A seven-man, five-woman jury took barely a day to reach a guilty verdict. Minutes after the verdict was read out, Murray was ignominiously handcuffed as judge Michael Pastor remanded him in custody pending sentencing.
Murray chose not to testify himself during the trial ― experts suggested he would have been ripped to pieces by prosecutor David Walgren, who had already comprehensively dismantled the defense case.
But days after his conviction it emerged that he had given media interviews during the closing weeks of the trial, for a documentary which was screened in the United States and Britain on which he collaborated.
That could weigh against him with judge Pastor, who was quick to take action over alleged contempt of court during the trial, including against the defense’s star witness Dr Paul White, who was fined $250.
Walgren said the TV interviews back up his assertion that Murray “displayed a complete lack of remorse for causing Michael Jackson’s death.”
“Even worse than failing to accept even the slightest level of responsibility, the defendant has placed blame on everyone else, including the one person no longer here to defend himself, Michael Jackson,” he wrote.
The eight-page prosecution claim estimated Jackson’s projected earnings from the London “This is It” shows at $100 million, as well as saying Murray should compensate Jackson’s children for nearly $2 million spent on his funeral.
Murray’s lawyers, Chernoff and Michael Flanagan ― who reportedly fell out with each other as their case gradually collapsed during the trial -― insist that he should not be jailed, as he poses no threat to the public.
“If he ever does practice again, it is highly improbable that he will encounter a patient with the charisma and star power of Mr. Jackson, or that he would make the same misjudgments,” they wrote.
“The event stands as an atypical and isolated aberration to an otherwise exceptional medical career.”