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Conrad Murray gets bigger cell, but still unhappy

By Alan Duke, CNN
October 12, 2012 -- Updated 0517 GMT (1317 HKT)
Dr. Conrad Murray is serving four years for his role in the death of Michael Jackson.
Dr. Conrad Murray is serving four years for his role in the death of Michael Jackson.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jailers transfer Murray to a 8-foot-by-10-foot cell, "but it's not a good thing," lawyer says
  • "It's like being stuck in a closet and he's freaking out," his lawyer says
  • "Valerie, I'm dying, save me,'" Murray tells his lawyer
  • Murray is serving a four-year sentence for causing Michael Jackson's death in 2009

Los Angeles (CNN) -- A day after Conrad Murray's lawyers complained he was suffering a "slow death" in a tiny jail cell, the doctor was moved to a slightly larger one, his lawyer said.

Lawyers for the doctor convicted in Michael Jackson's death warned the Los Angeles County sheriff in a letter Wednesday that Murray was suffering possibly life-threatening and permanent injuries from almost a year in a 5-foot-by-7-foot cell.

Authorities transferred Murray to a 8-foot-by-10-foot cell of the Los Angeles County jail Thursday, "but it's not a good thing," his lawyer Valerie Wass said.

Murray was found guilty of causing Jackson's death on June 25, 2009, by administering a deadly overdose of sedatives and the surgical anesthetic propofol in what he told police was an attempt to cure the singer's insomnia.

The new cell has a solid door with only a small window, unlike the old cell that was open with bars that Murray could prop his long legs on when he stretched, Wass said.

"It's like being stuck in a closet and he's freaking out," she said. "He is feeling really isolated.

When Murray called his lawyer Wednesday, "he basically said 'Valerie, I'm dying, save me,'" Wass said.

Wass, who is leading Murray's appeal of his involuntary manslaughter conviction, and Michael Flanagan, one of his trial attorneys, will meet with jail officials soon.

The meeting will focus on Murray's health problems they blame on his limited exercise and small cell, Wass said.

"He needs exercise," she said. "You've got to get him out of that cell more than once a week."

The best solution, she said, would be for the sheriff to release Murray on monitored home confinement for the final year of his sentence.

Murray was sentenced to the maximum of four years in prison for causing Jackson's death, but California law requires him to serve just half of that behind bars.

Another law intended to relieve overcrowding in state prisons has Murray serving his time in the county jail, which Wass said was never designed for long term confinement.

Wass and Flanagan signed a letter for Sheriff Lee Baca Wednesday that they said was "notice of the life-threatening condition in which Dr. Murray currently exists."

"Correction of this intolerable situation is of extreme importance," they wrote.

Murray is held in a high-security section of the jail and isolated from the general prisoner population to protect him.

"Death or injury at the hands of another prisoner, however, is no worse than a slow death caused by a loss of circulation and atrophy resulting from inhumane confinement of a large man in a tiny space," the lawyers' letter said.

Murray -- jailed since November 7, 2011, when he was convicted -- is 6 feet 5 inches tall, but until this week he was confined in a 5-foot-by-7-foot cell, the letter said.

"If one were to keep a dog in a space just a few inches larger than the dog's length, for any extended period of time, contentions of animal cruelty possibly leading to prosecution would likely result," it said.

The sheriff's office did not respond to CNN's calls for comment.

His jail conditions "are the equivalent of a large individual flying coach in a middle seat for a period of a year," Wass said.

Murray was taken to a hospital Sunday night for treatment of what his lawyer described as "marked venous stasis of his lower extremities" and "right shoulder pain and severe loss of motion."

His cell was so small that Murray has "no opportunity for physical movement throughout the day," his lawyers wrote. "The only actual exercise that Dr. Murray received occurs on most Monday evenings when he is transferred in chains to an 8-by-8 cage on the roof of the facility."

Murray, in a phone call to a friend Monday that was published Wednesday by the celebrity news website TMZ, complained that he feared his illness would be permanent. "I may never be able to wear a boot again," he said.

"The venous stasis gives rise to a high risk for deep vein thrombosis and/or migrating pulmonary embolism," his lawyer wrote to the sheriff. "This condition may have developed to a chronic state which has become permanent and uncorrectable necessitating a lifetime of medication and treatment."

Murray's physical appearance has changed dramatically since he was taken into custody, his lawyer wrote.

"A review of earlier booking photos and bio-statistics of Dr. Murray, when compared to his current condition and appearance, would be shocking to persons not previously familiar with him," they wrote. "To those who have known him for the last year or longer, the suffering that has obviously taken its toll on his health is unimaginable."

Keeping a human in such conditions "would at the very least give rise to civil liability for negligent confinement resulting in a debilitating medical condition," the letter said.

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