Dr. Conrad Murray Sentenced In King Of Pop's Death

Michael Jackson's personal physician has been sentenced to four years in prison for his role in the pop icon's death in 2009. Because of overcrowding in California's state prisons, Murray will serve his sentence in a downtown jail.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

A judge here in Los Angeles had strong words as the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray came to an end. Michael Jackson's personal physician has been sentenced to four years in prison for his role in the pop icon's 2009 death. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates has this recap of what went on in the courtroom yesterday.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES, BYLINE: It was the moment the Jackson family had been waiting for, for two years. The courtroom was hushed as their friend and spokesperson, Brian Panish, read their statement.

BRIAN PANISH: We respectfully request that you impose a sentence that reminds physicians that they cannot sell their services to the highest bidder, and cast aside their Hippocratic Oath to do no harm.

BATES: Then it was Deputy District Attorney David Walgren's turn. He reminded the judge that Dr. Murray had admitted to giving Jackson the general anesthetic propofol for two months before the singer finally succumbed to an overdose. And he listed the frantic doctor's catalog of deception in the aftermath of Jackson's death.

DAVID WALGREN: The cleaning up of the crime scene, lying to the paramedics, lying to UCLA, being deceptive with LAPD in their interview.

BATES: Lead defense attorney Ed Chernoff admitted his client had made mistakes - many of them - but hoped the doctor's willingness to routinely treat very poor patients, often without charging, would earn him some leniency. His medical career is now gone, Chernoff said, and only one thing is certain about his future.

ED CHERNOFF: Dr. Murray, whether he's a barista for the rest of his life, whether he's a greeter at Wal-Mart, he's still going to be the man that killed Michael Jackson.

BATES: Judge Michael Pastor said he couldn't consider the defense's request for probation because Dr. Murray refused to admit he was responsible for Jackson's death. He referenced the doctor's own words. This, from an NBC interview with Savannah Guthrie.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS INTERVIEW)

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Do you feel guilty that he died?

DR. CONRAD MURRAY: I don't feel guilty because I did not do anything wrong.

BATES: The judge disagreed, and called the doctor a taint on his profession. He called Dr. Murray's decision to treat Jackson's insomnia with propofol - a drug that requires strict monitoring in a medical setting - madness. But the judge's deepest disgust was for the doctor's covert recording of a clearly drugged and semi-conscious Jackson. He wondered aloud if the recording would be saved in case of a future conflict.

JUDGE MICHAEL PASTOR: 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?

BATES: Judge Pastor gave the disgraced cardiologist the maximum sentence - four years. But because of overcrowding in California's state prisons, Dr. Murray will serve his sentence in a downtown jail. And his sentence will be about two years, or perhaps even less, to make room for the next inmate.

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

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