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Lawyers for Conrad Murray ask for lightest sentence

Saying Conrad Murray — the doctor convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Michael Jackson's death — has already been severely punished, lawyers ask for probation instead of jail time.

November 24, 2011|By Harriet Ryan and Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times
  • From left, Defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan, Dr. Conrad Murray and defense attorney Ed Chernoff listen during rebuttal in the prosecution's closing arguments during the final stage of Murray's defense in his involuntary manslaughter trial in the death of singer Michael Jackson at the Los Angeles Superior Court.
From left, Defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan, Dr. Conrad Murray and… (Kevork Djansezian / Getty…)

Lawyers for the doctor convicted in Michael Jackson's death asked a judge Wednesday to hand down the most lenient sentence possible — probation.

In court papers filed in advance of Dr. Conrad Murray's sentencing Tuesday, his attorneys described the pop star's death as "an atypical and isolated aberration to an otherwise exceptional medical career."

The physician's lawyers argued that Murray has already been punished severely by the loss of his medical license and livelihood and with public contempt, including death threats.

PHOTOS: The trial of Dr. Conrad Murray

"Dr. Murray's life will never be the same. He will forever be stigmatized as the doctor responsible for the death of Michael Jackson," attorney Nareg Gourjian wrote.

Murray, a 58-year-old cardiologist, was convicted Nov. 7 of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's 2009 fatal overdose on a surgical anesthetic. Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor, who presided over Murray's trial, has said the physician poses a danger to society and ordered him held in jail pending sentencing.

Involuntary manslaughter carries a sentence of up to four years in state prison. But under recent changes to state prison law known as "realignment," Murray is likely to serve any time behind bars in the county jail, where sentences are routinely shortened to ease overcrowding.

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley acknowledged immediately after the verdict that Murray fell under new rules that eliminate state prison time for certain nonviolent offenders.

"This is probably the first of many, many, many poster children cases," Cooley said.

Despite Cooley's assessment, two of his deputies filed court papers Wednesday urging a state prison sentence of four years. Deputy Dist. Attys. David Walgren and Deborah Brazil recounted many of the most damaging aspects of Murray's care of Jackson, such as his 20-minute delay in phoning 911 after the singer stopped breathing. They also contended that Murray acted as an employee and a drug dealer, violating the patient-doctor relationship.

The physician, they said, evinced a lack of remorse in television interviews, including a "Today" show broadcast in which he said, "I don't feel guilty because I did not do anything wrong."

In addition to the prison term, the prosecutors wrote, Murray should be ordered to pay as restitution to Jackson's estate the $100 million the singer would have earned from comeback concerts, and $1.8 million in memorial service and funeral costs.

In asking for leniency, Murray's defense noted his work with the poor, including the founding of a charity clinic. The request for probation was accompanied by 34 letters of support from the doctor's patients, his relatives, pastors and friends. Murray's mother, Milta Rush, who attended the trial, wrote that her son "is certainly learning the toughest lessons of his life."

Of Jackson's mother, Katherine, who sat across the aisle from her during many days of testimony, Rush wrote, "I really wanted to approach her personally and tell her I am sorry for the loss of her son, but I was unsure if she would be receptive."

In court this week, Walgren indicated that some members of Jackson's family plan to address the court before sentencing.

FULL COVERAGE: The trial of Dr. Conrad Murray

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