Beat It, Dr. Murray

December 3, 2011

Political Theory


The death of the beloved pop singer, Michael Jackson, shocked the entire world and still is being dealt with in courts today.  Specifically, there’s been a lot of buzz in the media lately regarding the sentencing of his personal doctor, Conrad Murray. Jackson’s death was caused by a drug overdose of propofol, prescribed by Dr. Murray so the pop singer could fall asleep.  This past Tuesday a judge sentenced the doctor to the maximum four years behind bars because of his “horrific violation of trust” in the care of Michael Jackson.

Jackson and Murray

Although his sentence sounds very serious, there are a few exceptions that have recently occurred that are in favor of Dr. Murray.  There has been a new law created in California that requires the doctor to serve his sentence in county jail rather than state prison.  Also, the Sheriff’s Department, not the original judge, determines the time actually served in the jail.  It is likely that Dr. Murray will serve a lighter sentence for good behavior… maybe even half of the original sentencing.

In addition, it’s important to remember Michael Jackson wasn’t only a pop icon; he had a family including three young children.  Dr. Murray, due to his irresponsible use of the drug, has split this family apart.  Jackson’s family released a heart wrenching statement to Dr. Murray:  “As his brothers and sisters, we will never be able to hold, laugh or perform again with our brother Michael,” the statement said. “And as his children, we will grow up without a father, our best friend, our playmate and our dad.” Jackson’s family has said they are happy with the four-year sentence of the doctor and are planning to move forward.

Jackson's family at his funeral

Is this fair?  Should Dr. Murray be allowed to serve in county jail?  Should he be able to serve less time in jail?  As a political philosopher, what would Thomas Hobbes think of the sentencing?  Would he simply agree with the laws of California even though they are weakening the government’s power over Murray?  Since Hobbes is in favor of social contract theory, he believes we should abide by rules of those in power or else there will be chaos.  I think he would support the sentencing of Murray even though it is not as harsh as it should be.

Or is this not Murray’s fault at all?  Dr. Murray has stated to court that Michael Jackson was “a drug seeker” and requested propofol nightly.  I would imagine that a celebrity doctor would acquiesce with the requests of their clients simply due to their large job income. Murray took the job after being in severe debt.  As Michael Jackson’s personal physician he earned $150,000 or more a month.  Also, if Jackson really was a “drug seeker” it is likely the singer would get them somewhere else if Murray denied him proposal.  What do you think?  Is Murray getting what he deserves?

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4 Comments on “Beat It, Dr. Murray”

  1. Rainyo Says:

    i really don’t think it matters where Conrad Murray serves out his prison sentence, as long as he is serving time for what he has done. I looked into why he was serving a prison sentence in a county jail, and that was simply because there is overcrowding in the California prison system.

    Murray is a criminal, that is without a doubt. From what Danielle has said, Murray defended himself by saying that Jackson was fiending for drugs, implying that Jackson’s death would have occurred anyways no matter Murray’s involvement. But the fact is that Murray did provide these drugs to Jackson, and should have used his better, medical judgement to assess Jackson’s true need for the drugs. And It seems as though Murray had other things on his mind aside from Jackson’s health-the big chunk of change he made being Jackson’s personal physician. So it seems Murray continued giving Jackson these drugs, just because his wallet would subsequently get fatter and fatter.

    Murray’s greed, in turn, killed Jackson. He should have consulted Jackson much more on the repercussions of overdosing/mixing the drugs that Jackson was acquiring. I personally think Murray should serve more time in jail because he really did, to a certain degree, kill Michael Jackson. This is a new frontier in law-the weapons used to kill are much different/more ambiguous than weapons used in antiquity. The ‘murder’ wasn’t in the form of a gun or a knife, but rather a pill, which makes the terms/conditions of the sentencing much more difficult to agree upon.

    In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter that the weapon of choice wasn’t a gun, but rather propofol, it nonetheless still led to the death of an individual. I mean, involuntary manslaughter is often understood as an ‘accident’, but Murray knew the risks and implications, but continued to prescribe Jackson these doses. This case was categorized involuntary manslaughter, but I think it’s murder, the only involuntary part about the whole thing was that Murray was ‘blinded’ by the big dollar signs in his eyes when Jackson gave him a fat paycheck.

  2. maryblee Says:

    Michael Jackson’s celebrity has blinded us all. That is why CNN covered his death 24 hours a day in the few days after it occurred, while huge numbers of people died more gruesomely and more terribly across the world. That is why hoards of people waited outside the courthouse in support of him as he was being tried for child molestation. And that is why Dr. Murray provided Jackson with a potentially dangerous drug.

    It’s also important to notice that all of us are biased in this as well. The author talks about how Jackson’s death broke apart his family, and shouldn’t Murray be punished for that? But three years ago, anyone could have told you that Michael Jackson was not an exemplary father, and it is quite hard to imagine that he hadn’t damaged familial relationships long before his death.

    And so, while Murray very well may hold some of the blame for Jackson’s death, I think that people’s reactions are generally exaggerated as they hum “Thriller” of “Billie Jean” to themselves.

  3. kaitlinlapka Says:

    In my opinion it should be against the doctor’s job and duties to give out excessive amounts of medicine and drugs. No matter how famous the celebrity, person, or politician, no amount of fame and money should be able to buy excessive and potentially deadly amounts of drugs. Of course, money will always motivate certain people to do things like this, and I can’t help but accept that as a part of our society today. Whether or not this was the case in Michael Jackson’s death, I believe that unfortunately under the law Dr. Murray does have to shoulder some of the blame. It’s like when underage teens drink, whoever bought the alcohol is also in trouble. As a doctor, it is his job to administer healthy amounts of sleeping pills for the pop star. However, it is also the patient’s job to take the care of the doctor correctly. Dr. Murray could not have been there to make sure Michael took the pills correctly every time. The only fair thing in my opinion is to have Dr. Murray do jail time. He is partially to blame and therefore, because of our justice system, should have to serve time. If he has good behavior, he should be freed earlier like other citizens. However, he should not be freed earlier simply for being a celebrity or involved in a famous case.

  4. rachdavidson Says:

    I don’t think we can say that anyone “gets what they deserve.” Who are we to decide what one person deserves as opposed to another? Why should one person get the reigning decision on another’s sentencing? This is why laws have been created in the first place. They are universally agreed on, so that all sentences are “fair.” This way, fair is based objectively, not subjectively with personal bias. These laws are what help us avoid chaos, even if we do not think they suit every situation, as shown in this case.

    I am left wondering, however, if this case would be such a big deal if it were a normal man and not Michael Jackson. Obviously, the media attention on the case would not be as great, but would people still find the punishment too weak? I think this goes back to what you were saying about Murray giving Jackson drugs because he was a big time celebrity. Should celebrities be treated this differently? I do not think so. They are normal people, and as seen in many different cases, when we treat them differently, when we place such high expectations on who they are, such a spotlight on their lives, we just hurt them, not help them.

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