Rulings limiting the defense case could be a basis for appeal, defense says
The defense will ask for probation and "maybe a little bit" of jail time
Prison overcrowding could limit Murray's time behind bars
Murray is 'devastated' by his conviction in Jackson's death, his lawyer says
Dr. Conrad Murray, found guilty Monday of causing Michael Jackson’s death, begins his new life as an inmate in a section of the Los Angeles County jail where high-profile prisoners are kept, a jail official said.
While it is the “medical area” that houses inmates on suicide watch, Murray is only there because it has a higher ratio of guards, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Harry Drucker said.
Murray’s defense team has vowed to appeal his involuntary manslaughter conviction, but first they must deal with his sentencing set for November 29.
While Murray was “devastated” by the guilty verdict, he is “confident” he will win an appeal, defense lawyer Nareg Gourjian said.
“What matters most right now is trying to keep Dr. Murray from taking up a prison cell in this community,” lead defense lawyer Ed Chernoff said. “That’s what we’re focusing on right now and we’ll deal with an appeal after that.”
Murray served as Jackson’s personal physician as Jackson prepared for his comeback concerts, with Murray giving him the surgical anesthetic propofol to help him sleep nearly every night for the last two months of his life, according to testimony.
Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009, was caused by “acute propofol intoxication” in combination with two sedatives, the Los Angeles County coroner ruled.
The verdict followed about nine hours of jury deliberations, which began Friday morning in the downtown Los Angeles County courthouse.
Murray could be sentenced to as much as four years in a state prison, but his lawyers will ask for probation and “maybe a little bit” of time in the county jail, Gourjian said.
A new California law aimed at reducing state prison overcrowding and a federal court order addressing county jail overcrowding could combine to significantly reduce Murray’s time behind bars.
If Murray’s conviction is treated as a non-violent felony he could be kept in the county jail, where he could be eligible to serve some of his time at home under monitored house arrest.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor, who will decide Murray’s sentence, made it clear when he denied bail Monday that he considered the doctor a threat to public safety.
“This is not a crime involving a mistake of judgment,” Pastor said. “This was a crime where the end result was the death of a human being.”
Both Chernoff and Gourjian said the defense was not surprised by the guilty verdict.
“I think what went wrong was a lot of the pretrial rulings that were made by the court in reference to some of the evidence that we planned to offer for the jury to consider,” Gourjian told CNN’s Piers Morgan. “I think that’s essentially what denied Dr. Murray a fair trial in this case.”
The outcome may have been different had the defense been able to introduce additional evidence – like on Jackson’s past drug use and “financial condition,” Gourjian said.
Pastor’s rulings to limit the defense case could be the basis for an appeal, he said.
Murray appeared to show no emotion as the verdict was read by court clerk Sammi Benson Monday afternoon or even as deputies handcuffed him and led him away.
A loud celebration erupted among Jackson fans outside of the courthouse, where emotions ran so high at least one woman fainted. Passing cars honked their horns, as people nearby hugged, cried and yelled out in joy.
Jackson’s family, including by his parents and several of his brothers and sisters, smiled as they left the courthouse.
An emotional La Toya Jackson on Monday thanked all those involved in the trial, calling the decision a “victory.”
“Everybody was wonderful,” La Toya Jackson told HLN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell as she left the Los Angeles courthouse.
A statement released by Jackson’s estate Monday said that “justice has been served.”
Deputy District Attorney David Walgren personally expressed his sympathies to the Jackson family who he said lost “not a pop icon, but a son and brother.”
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley thanked jurors “for their hard work and thoughtful deliberation,” and expressed gratitude that they recognized the “overwhelming” evidence against Murray in finding him guilty.
The seven men and five women on the jury heard 49 witnesses over 23 days, including Murray’s girlfriends and patients, Jackson’s former employees, investigators and medical experts for each side.
Defense lawyers contended the matter was a negligence case that should instead be heard by the state medical board.
“If it were anybody else but Michael Jackson, would this doctor be here today?” Chernoff asked in his closing.
Jurors were left to decide if the propofol overdose was infused into Jackson’s blood by a steady intravenous drip, as the prosecution contended, or if Jackson injected himself using a syringe left nearby by Murray, as the defense argued.
“He was just a little fish in a big, dirty pond,” Chernoff said, pointing the finger at other doctors who treated Jackson, and Jackson himself.
Prosecutor Walgren attacked the defense for trying to blame “everybody but Conrad Murray, poor Conrad Murray.”
Walgren painted Murray as a selfish doctor who agreed to take $150,000 a month to give Jackson nightly infusions of propofol in his home, something prosecutors argued an ethical doctor would never do because of the dangers.
“It was a very strong and powerful message that this sort of conduct does rise to the level of criminal negligence, and to the extent someone dies as a result of them playing the role of Dr. Feel Good, they will be held accountable,” Cooley said after the verdict.
Murray’s license to practice medicine is now suspended, according to the Medical Board of California, which decides if a doctor can legally work in the state.
In the light of the conviction, the board now will open an investigation to determine whether or not to fully revoke Murray’s right to practice medicine in the state, spokeswoman Jennifer Simoes said.
The main criteria in deciding whether to revoke, suspend or take other action against any doctor is assessing how substantial a crime is related to the practice of medicine. There is no timeline as to when the board might act regarding Murray, said Simoes.
CNN’s Ted Rowlands and Adam Blaker contributed to this report.