Judge Michael Pastor sat seething on the bench as the principles in the case of the State of California versus Conrad Murray, M.D. presented their arguments to persuade the court in the sentencing of the convicted cardiologist who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of pop star Michael Jackson.
When it was his turn to speak, Pastor’s disdain for the defendant was palpable. For three full minutes, he revisited the numerous ways the physician had failed to comply with the basic standards of care:
- Exchanged medicine for $150,000 per month and willingly complied with the patient’s wishes without regard for the patient’s best interest
- Administered a dangerous anesthesia outside a properly equipped hospital environment
- After delivering the anesthesia, left Michael Jackson alone for a short period of time during which Jackson stopped breathing
- Failed to call 911 immediately
- Failed to tell emergency personnel that the patient had been given the anesthesia
- Lied to emergency room doctors about the drug
- Showed absolutely no remorse or sense of responsibility for the death of Michael Jackson
Judge Pastor’s obvious pique was not just because he loathed the doctor and his obvious lack of character. He was livid because he couldn’t even send the man to the state prison to do his time. California law, recently revised, limited the penalty for involuntary manslaughter to a maximum of four years in jail.
But it gets worse. California’s jails are filled beyond their capacities. The only solution to that condition is to shorten the terms of inmates to make room for the newly convicted. So, Conrad Murray, in all likelihood, will serve no more than 2 1/2 years and even less when time served and good behavior are factored in.
In the meantime, people are going to notorious places like Folsom and Pelican Bay state prisons for non-lethal crimes such as possession of illegal drugs and burglary and serving out their terms.
There are times when the justice system in our country makes very little sense. This is one of those times.