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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The voice of Michael Jackson helped put the man who killed him behind bars.
It wasn’t the familiar voice of hits such as “Billie Jean” and “Thriller,” but the slow, slurring recording of the singer that was found on his physician’s cell phone that helped convince a judge to sentence the doctor to jail for four years.
The four-minute recording was one of the blockbuster revelations of Dr. Conrad Murray’s involuntary manslaughter trial, a previously unknown piece of evidence that revealed an impaired Jackson describing his ambitions and aspirations as his personal physician listened.
It was also one of the trial’s most haunting moments, and stuck in the mind of Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor as he considered in recent days how to sentence Murray for causing Jackson’s unexpected death in June 2009. It wasn’t the only thing the judge considered — he unwaveringly assailed the cardiologist’s decisions and ethics for nearly 30 minutes on Tuesday — but helped convince Pastor to give Murray the maximum sentence.
Jurors unanimously convicted Murray on Nov. 7, but it was up to Pastor on Tuesday to sentence the doctor and explain his punishment.
“Of everything I heard and saw during the course of the trial, one aspect of the evidence stands out the most, and that is the surreptitious recording of Michael Jackson by his trusted doctor,” Pastor said.
Murray’s attorneys never explained in court why the recording was made, and prosecutors said they do not know what substances Jackson was under the influence of when the audio was recorded six weeks before his death. Murray had been giving the singer nightly doses of the anesthetic propofol to help him sleep.
The doctor’s time in a Los Angeles jail will be automatically reduced to less than two years due to laws imposed due to California’s prison overcrowding and budget woes.
Murray, 58, will have plenty of time if he wants to consider Pastor’s harsh rebuke of him. The Houston-based cardiologist will be confined to a one-man cell and kept away from other prisoners.
With Jackson’s family and Murray’s mother and girlfriend looking on, the judge called the doctor’s actions a “disgrace to the medical profession,” and said he displayed a “failure of character” and had showed a complete lack of remorse for his significant role in causing Jackson’s death.
“It should be made very clear that experimental medicine is not going to be tolerated, and Mr. Jackson was an experiment,” Pastor said. “The fact that he participated in it does not excuse or lessen the blame of Dr. Murray, who simply could have walked away and said no as countless others did.
“But Dr. Murray was intrigued with the prospect of this money-for-medicine madness,” the judge said.
Defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan said after the sentencing hearing that Murray made the recording accidentally while playing with a new application on his iPhone. He deleted it, but a computer investigator recovered it from the doctor’s phone after Jackson’s death.
Pastor said he believed the recording was made with more sinister intent.
“That tape recording was Dr. Murray’s insurance policy,” the judge said. “It was designed to record his patient surreptitiously; at that patient’s most vulnerable point.”
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