Sentencing of Conrad Murray
One of the most difficult aspects of the job of judging is to impose an appropriate, just, and fair sentence. It’s never an easy or fun responsibility. It’s even more complicated when a judge is confronted with discretionary choices. In many of our cases, the terms are set in stone and the judge has no discretion. But when a judge is called upon to exercise discretion, it’s a very significant responsibility and that responsibility is compounded in a case such as this where neither party is saying that Dr. Murray acted intentionally in being responsible in the death of the decedent, Michael Jackson. Even the people just acknowledged that Dr. Murray did not intend for Mr. Jackson to die.
So the court is called upon to utilize its sense of fairness and decency as well as various factors it has gained over the years of experience in fashioning in what it believes is an appropriate sentence in this case.
There are those who feel that Dr. Murray is a saint, there are those who feel Dr. Murray is the devil. He is neither. He’s a human being. He stands convicted of the death of another human being. And that death is predicated not on simple civil negligence but on criminal negligence; and it’s important for the court to realize that that is the appropriate standard. The standard of criminal or gross negligence and the fact that a jury of 12 people from remarkably different backgrounds and life experiences concluded unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt that Dr. Murray had, with criminal negligence, caused the death of Michael Jackson. It’s important to emphasize the standard of criminal negligence found by this jury, beyond a reasonable doubt because some may feel that this was a medical malpractice case. It wasn’t. It was and is a criminal homicide case and this jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, with criminal negligence, caused the death of Michael Jackson. And criminal negligence is defined as follows, ‘Criminal negligence involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistake in judgment. A person acts or fails to perform a legal duty with criminal negligence when: 1) He or she acts or fails to perform a legal duty in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury and 2) a reasonable person would have known that acting or failing to perform a legal duty in that way would create such a risk. A person acts with criminal negligence when the way he or she acts is so different from the way an ordinarily careful person would act in the same situation that his or her act amounts to disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences of that act.
It’s important to remember and focus on those terms and not to treat them cavalierly as some might be saying, ‘Oh well, it just happened’ and, ‘Oh well, if it weren’t for Dr. Murray, someone else may have been involved.’ I categorically disassociate myself from those types of statements. This is not a question about what might have happened or what if someone else had been involved if not for Dr. Murray. That is an insult to the medical profession. The fact is that Michael Jackson died because of the actions of and the failures to perform legal duties on the part of Dr. Murray. Not some other medical doctor, and also not exclusively because of Michael Jackson.
I accepted Mr. Cernoff’s invitation to read the whole book, and I have. I’ve been impressed by the submissions from family and friends and associates of Dr. Murray. It is a book of Dr.Murray’s life but I’ve also read the book of Michael Jackson’s life. Not isolated chapters of either. 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, and Michael Jackson died, not because of an isolated one-off occurrence or incident. He died because of a totality of circumstances, which are directly attributable to Dr. Murray. Not some mistake, or some accident in the early morning hours of June 25th, 2009, but because of a series of decisions that Dr. Murray made which jeopardized his patient, which violated his obligations to his patient and the essence of his Hippocratic Oath. Those violations overcome the other aspects of Dr. Murray’s treatment of other patients and the good deeds he may have done before that time.
Dr. Murray created a set of circumstances and became involved in a cycle of horrible medicine. The practice of Propofol for medicine madness, which violated his sworn obligation for money, fame, prestige, and whatever else, may have occurred. So I don’t look at one isolated incident in terms of the misdeeds of Dr. Murray or the deeds of Dr. Murray. But insofar as this case is concerned, Dr. Murray engaged in a recurring, continuous pattern of deceit, of lies, and regrettable that pattern was to assist Dr. Murray.
It is almost inconceivable that Dr. Murray would have persisted in this pattern over such an extensive period of time. The lies, the deceit began and continued as we heard for 56 weeks’ worth of testimony, to build up an absolutely astounding set of circumstances. The lies from the inception of his medical relationship at the Hombly Hills residence in terms of ordering Propofol in staggering quantities, unprecedented quantities. The lies to the pharmacy and to the pharmacist, the sophisticated, intentional deception in that regard, the lies and repeated deception to those associated with Mr. Jackson, whether it be members of the staff and also members of the production team, AEG, and Mr. Jackson’s personal and professional associates.
The continuing series of lies to Michael Jackson’s security and staff personnel at a critical point and time; the unconscionable lies to healthcare providers, life savers, paramedics, and medical personnel at UCLA, which were not designed to help his patient; quite the contrary, which were designed to deceive and give Dr. Murray a way out. The efforts on the part of Dr. Murray to subvert the process by attempting to destroy evidence. Subsequent efforts to cover up by distortions and lies to law enforcement.
If one looks to the crime of involuntary manslaughter in a vacuum, one can say ‘this may be something that went terribly wrong, and it’s tragic but it’s so critically important not to have a superficial gut reaction to what happened in this case but to look at the totality of circumstances in terms of the long-standing failure of character on the part of Dr. Murray to serve his patient, and when one does that, one can’t help but be offended by the circumstances in this case.
Of everything that I heard and saw during the course of the trial, one aspect of the evidence stands out the most and that is the surreptitious recording of Michael Jackson by his trusted doctor. And I have repeatedly asked myself, ‘Why did this happen? And for what reason?’ and I can speculate and surmise that there might have been some justifiable reason, some benefit to Michael Jackson. That would be an entirely unreasonable conclusion. That tape recording was Dr. Murray’s insurance policy. 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.
And I can’t help but wonder that if there had been some conflict between Michael Jackson and Dr. Murray at a later point and time in their relationship, what value would be placed on that tape recording if the choice were to release that tape recording to a media organization to be used against Michael Jackson. And regrettable, that failure of character was compounded by later actions on the part of Dr. Murray, each of which amounted to a betrayal of trust, confidence, and a clear violation of the doctor-patient relationship and an undermining of the phenomenal role and responsibility that healthcare personnel (doctors, nurses, paramedics, healthcare aides) perform in our society. We revere medical doctors and we should, because they work diligently and they serve and make sacrifices to keep us well. And unquestionably Dr. Murray did that, but at some point things went terribly wrong for Dr. Murray and when he had an opportunity, he didn’t get out. He stayed in and he got deeper and deeper in trouble and he betrayed the very oaths and tenets of his medical profession.
So, I do look to totality of circumstances, and when I look to the totality of circumstances and when I look to whole book, the book of Dr. Murray’s life, I also look to the chapter that disturbs me most and that’s the chapter to which I refer.
I can’t say that my opinion changed after I became aware of the production involving Dr. Murray after the jury verdict in this case. When Dr. Murray says, ‘I don’t feel guilty’ that’s what he says. Mr. Chernoff acknowledges candidly that there’s fault here, but you’re not hearing it from Dr. Murray. You didn’t hear it at the time Dr. Murray interacted with the security staff and the staff at the Hombly Hills property. You didn’t hear it from Dr. Murray when he encountered members of the paramedic squad, paramedics Seneff and Blunt. You certainly didn’t hear it when Dr. Murray encountered Drs. Cooper and Nguyen who were on lifesaving mission. You didn’t hear it when Dr. Murray talked to the detectives of LAPD and you certainly didn’t hear it during Dr. Murray’s interview in this faux documentary, faux reality production wherein Dr. Murray says ‘I don’t feel guilty, I wasn’t reckless, I didn’t tell them about Propofol because they never asked the question and it wasn’t important’ and where Dr. Murray at that point says HE feels betrayed and entrapped by Michael Jackson. Yipes! Talk about blaming the victim! 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
To hear Dr. Murray say it, Dr. Murray was just a bystander who sort of came upon a scene and was put in this situation because of everybody else’s actions other than himself, whether it be members of family, whether it be members of AEG, whether it be Mr. Jackson or anybody else.
Those are factors which caused me tremendous concern because the essence of probation is recognition that someone may have done something wrong, some responsibility, some remorse. Why give probation to someone who is offended by the whole idea that that person is even before the court. You can’t have probation when there isn’t an acknowledgement of rehabilitation and responsibility. And regrettably Dr. Murray doesn’t have any of them. Dr. Murray is certainly statutorily eligible for probation. I looked valiantly for efforts to satisfy myself that while Dr. Murray was legally eligible for probation, he was suitable for probation, and I really didn’t become convinced that I could find any. Dr. Murray is eligible for probation, the court declines to grant probation in this case for a host of reasons and in making that decision I acknowledge that Dr. Murray has throughout his 58 years provided services to the community and has helped many individuals. But I also acknowledge that he unquestionably violated the trust and confidence of his patient, Mr. Jackson, on a repeated nightly basis. Michael Jackson as a patient was vulnerable because Dr. Murray put Mr. Jackson in a position where Dr. Murray was responsible for the very life of Mr. Jackson. Dr. Murray engaged in a sophisticated scheme to obtain Propofol through insidious means by lying to the pharmacist to concoct a story, by not keeping records, and by allowing his personal life to interfere with his professional responsibilities. At the very time that people are depending on Dr. Murray to be candid with them regarding Mr. Jackson’s medical condition, Dr. Murray is lying. He’s lying to the AEG people, he’s lying to Mr. Ortega, he’s lying to the insurance carrier and anybody else he can. And he’s engaged in personal matters while he should be paying attention to his patient.
Anybody that takes an objective view of what was going on here has to come to an ineluctable conclusion that Dr. Murray abandoned his patient and this is not a simple one-off occurrence. This is an unacceptable, egregious series of departures from the appropriate standard of care, which undermine the physician-patient relationship and which are a disgrace to the medical profession, an honorable profession which bears the blot, the scourge of what happened here.
So again, we’re not talking about a single isolated mistake. What we’re talking about is a gross continuing deviation. So for those factors, the court makes a determination that Dr. Murray is not a suitable candidate for a grant of probation. The request for probation under the rules of the court is denied.
The question then becomes what is the appropriate period of incarceration. The court has many options including hybrid-type sentences as authorized by the realignment act of 2011, and straight sentencing. This court does not have the legal authority to actually send and imprison Dr. Murray in a state prison. I do not have the legal authority and I’m certainly going to follow the law in that regard. The legislature of this state signed a realignment act that declares certain offenses, while felonies, not to be served in state prison and involuntary manslaughter is one of those. I do not have the legal authority. I must determine the appropriate sentence, and in making that determination the court is guided by a triad of possible sentences that the court can impose: 2, 3, or 4 years. The court no longer has to weigh what is called aggravating circumstances or factors versus mitigating circumstances or factors but has to give a statement of reasons.
The court has determined that the appropriate term is the high term of 4 years imprisonment. I do so because once again, I find that Dr. Murray abandoned his patient who was trusting him. His patient was vulnerable under those circumstances, having been administered potentially dangerous drugs by his medical provider. Dr. Murray’s course of conduct extended over a period of time. Dr. Murray repeatedly lied, engaged in deceitful misconduct, and endeavored to cover up his transgressions. He violated the trust of the medical community, of his colleagues, and of his patient. And he has absolutely no sense of remorse, absolutely no sense of fault, and is, and remains dangerous.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQFwF5rYafg
It’s easy to say, ‘Oh well, Dr. Murray is a medical doctor, he’s a smart, sophisticated man, he does not have a criminal history, he may not be licensed to practice medicine in the future’ (although that has nothing to do with me, I have no authority over that).
The fact remains that Dr. Murray is offended by that patient dying and I don’t have any idea what will prompt Dr. Murray to do or not do something in the future that may be dangerous to a patient if he does practice medicine in the United States or even elsewhere. I think Dr. Murray is so reckless based upon the law and the definition of criminal negligence that I read and everything that I heard and saw in this case, and Dr. Murray’s subsequent conduct, that I believe he is a danger to the community.
I’ve taken into account all of the factors, I’ve stated my reasons, and those reasons, the nature and character of the offense distinguish this charge of involuntary manslaughter in this case and this conviction of involuntary manslaughter in this case from other cases involving involuntary manslaughter and there’s a fundamental aspect of the criminal justice system which is involved here and that is the fundamental aspect of punishment. It should be made very clear that experimental medicine is not going to be tolerated and Mr. Jackson was an experiment. The fact that he participated in it does not excuse or lessen the blame of Dr. Murray who simply could have walked away and said no as countless others did. Dr. Murray was intrigued by the prospect and he engaged in this money-for-medicine madness that is simply not going to be tolerated by me.
So as to sentencing in this case, the request for probation is denied, the court imposes the high term of 4 years imprisonment in this case pursuant to the realignment act of 2011 and the provisions of penal code section 1170 subdivision H, that 4 year sentence is to be served in the Los Angeles County Jail under the care, supervision, and direction of the Los Angeles County Sheriff.
Dr. Murray is to pay an $800 restitution fine pursuant to the provisions of penal code section 1202.4 and the statutory scheme therein, a $30 court security fee pursuant to penal code 1465.8 subdivision A paragraph 1, and a $40 criminal conviction assessment pursuant to government code section 70373. As a convicted felon, Dr. Murray is ordered to provide specimens and samples or blood, saliva, fingerprints, and palm prints for law enforcement investigative purposes and the state DNA data bank. And his willful refusal to provide any specified samples is a separate crime.”
Source: DEAR MICHAEL Messenger of Love Elizabeth Johnson 2013