Published November 29, 2011
Michael Jackson's doctor will learn his punishment Tuesday for ending the life and career of one of pop music's greatest entertainers and for leaving his three children without a father.
Conrad Murray is set to be sentenced for 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 Superior Court Judge Michael 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.
Jackson's family members will have an opportunity to speak before Murray is sentenced, although it remained unclear if any planned to make a statement. The singer's mother Katherine and several siblings routinely attended the trial, and members of the family cried after Murray's verdict was read in court.
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.
During Murray's trial, a jury heard a slurred recording of Jackson found on Murray's cell phone. The doctor or his attorneys never explained in court why he recorded the impaired singer six weeks before his death, but it revealed the ambition of the entertainer who burst on the scene as a baby-faced member of the Jackson Five in the 1970s.
"We have to be phenomenal," he was heard saying about his "This Is It" concerts in London. "When people leave this show, when people leave my show, I want them to say, `I've never seen nothing like this in my life. Go. Go. I've never seen nothing like this. Go. It's amazing. He's the greatest entertainer in the world."'
Jackson's comeback attempt came after he had been pushed into obscurity. Despite his acquittal of child molestation in 2005, Jackson went into seclusion, leaving his lavish manor Neverland Ranch and moving to the Middle East and Las Vegas, where he first met Murray.
Prosecutors said the men's relationship 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.
Murray showed no emotion when he was convicted.
"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."
Pastor also will review a report by probation officials that carries a sentencing recommendation. The report will become public after Murray is sentenced.
The report may also feature input from the doctor, who was heard during the trial in a lengthy interview recorded by police.
Murray's trial was closely watched by Jackson's fans in the courtroom, on social networking sites and via live broadcasts online and on television. Fan groups are planning to return to the courthouse and vie for the few public seats that will be made available for the sentencing.