Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Trial of Conrad Murray

The Sentencing

On November 29, 2011, the parties reassembled in Department 107 for the sentencing of Conrad Murray. Prosecutors argued that Murray's crime warranted the harshest sentence allowed: four years in state prison. Defense attorneys cited Murray's humble beginning, generosity and good works in an attempt to convince Judge Michael Pastor to set Murray free on probation and make him do community service.

The Jackson family leaves court after sentencing
The Jackson family leaves court after sentencing

Although Michael Jackson's family was well-represented in court (his mother Katherine and siblings LaToya, Rebbie, Katherine, Jermaine, and Randy took seats in the gallery), they did not address the judge directly. Instead, they collaborated on a letter that was read in open court by civil attorney Brian Panish. In that letter, Michael's parents said his death went "against the natural order of things"; his siblings lamented they would never sing and dance with the pop star again; and his children would be forever deprived of the companionship of their "father, playmate and best friend."

Conrad Murray was given the opportunity to address the court for leniency, but declined to make a statement on his own behalf.

In his lengthy remarks before passing sentence, Judge Michael Pastor excoriated the defendant calling his administration of propofol "medicine madness", and declaring that Murray had violated his oath as a doctor for "money, fame, prestige." Judge Pastor slapped Conrad Murray with the heftiest sentence he could hand down — four years in LA County Jail. Sheriff's spokesperson Steve Whitmore clarified soon after that under a new state law, a non-violent offender's jail time is automatically cut in half, so Murray will serve no more than two years in jail for his involuntary manslaughter conviction.

In addition to the jail sentence, Judge Pastor ordered that Murray pay $870 in fines and court fees. Prosecutors had requested that Conrad Murray be ordered to pay restitution to Jackson's family for lost wages and funeral expenses — a total they estimated to be $101.8 million. Judge Pastor decided that he needed a more comprehensive accounting of those figures before ruling on that point. He set a hearing on the matter for January 23, 2012.

As Conrad Murray was taken into custody after sentencing, he blew a kiss toward his supporters in the gallery — his mother Milta Rush and his girlfriend Nicole Alvarez.

In post-hearing press conferences, both sides commented on the sentencing. Defense attorney Michael Flanagan complained that Judge Pastor was "openly hostile" throughout the trial and disputed the idea that Murray is a danger to society. Asked if Murray should have made a statement in court, Flanagan responded: "I think the judge probably wanted to hear from him too, but I think the Judge just would have belittled anything he had to say."

Prosecutor David Walgren and Deborah Brazil agreed with Judge Pastor's decision and professed happiness with the way the case went and with their interactions with the Jackson family, who mouthed "thank you" to the prosecutors as they left the courtroom. As Katherine Jackson walked out of the courthouse, she told reporters: "Four years is not enough for someone's life. It won't bring him back, but at least he got the maximum."

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