The doctor convicted of killing Michael Jackson is coping with tight security and isolation and remains optimistic that he will win an upcoming appeal, his civil attorney said Tuesday.
Charles Peckham said sheriff's deputies appear to be subjecting Conrad Murray to more security than other inmates at Men's Central Jail and that the physician was left heavily shackled during their jailhouse meeting.
"Treating him like Hannibal Lecter is offensive," Peckham said, referring to the fictional serial killer from popular books and films. A sheriff's officials defended the security measures, saying they were for Murray's safety.
The attorney had to obtain a court order Tuesday to meet with Murray to discuss strategy on a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Jackson's father. Peckham said despite the judge's order, he was denied entry to the jail, but officials relented after speaking with the civil trial court handling the case.
He said their initial 30-minute meeting was cut short when the jail was placed in lockdown, but Peckham said the time was enough to upset him and see that Murray's fortunes had dramatically changed.
"This man who saved lives made a mistake, and they're going to make him pay like a mass-murderer," Peckham said. The doctor spoke extensively to documentary filmmakers before his conviction, but few details of his life behind bars have been divulged.
Murray "is a real target because of his notoriety and because of the Michael Jackson connection," sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said. "We're just being extra cautious right now."
He said jail officials will evaluate how to handle Murray's incarceration, but that he may not serve his whole sentence in isolation from other inmates. He noted that without a recent change in state law, Murray would be serving his term in state prison, not a county lockup.
Peckham said Murray, who has been jailed since a jury convicted him of involuntary manslaughter on Nov. 7, is optimistic that an appellate court will grant an appeal on the case.
Peckham's visit came hours after the physician, who was never paid the $150,000 a month he expected for serving as Jackson's personal physician, asked a court to provide a publicly funded attorney to handle his appeal because he is indigent.
J. Michael Flanagan, who was one of Murray's criminal defense lawyers, agreed with Peckham's description. He said that when he visited Murray recently, four deputies escorted the physician into the meeting room and shackled him to a table.
"He can't even scratch his nose," the attorney said. Flanagan said he saw another inmate who was charged with murder meet with his attorney without the same restrictive measures.
"This is because of his notoriety," Whitmore said. "It's not so much the crime itself."
Peckham said he didn't "think the sheriff's department is being anything but professional. I do however believe the amount of security for Dr. Murray is vastly out of proportion with the potential threat."
He said Murray told him he appreciates the support and prayers he's received from former patients and friends.
In the early days of his confinement, Murray was classified as suicidal in jail records, according to a probation report. Peckham said he saw no indications that the physician intended to take his own life and that he seemed to be in control of his mental health.
Murray indicated in a two-page court filing Tuesday that he would rely on a court-funded attorney to help craft his appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that felony convicts have a constitutional right to assistance of counsel.
Flanagan and Murray's other criminal attorneys had sought to present evidence to jurors about Jackson's finances, details of his deal for a series of comeback concerts, and information about other doctors treating the pop superstar. But the judge refused and ruled the trial would be about Murray's care of the singer.
The Houston-based doctor had been giving Jackson nightly doses of the powerful anesthetic propofol as a sleep aid. The drug is normally given in hospital settings with extensive monitoring equipment, but testimony showed Murray had only basic equipment and left Jackson's bedside on the morning of his death.
Pastor has scheduled a hearing for Jan. 23 to decide whether to order Murray to pay any restitution to Jackson's family or reimburse them for funeral expenses, which totaled more than $1.8 million.
Jackson's estate estimated the singer would have earned at least $100 million if he had performed his "This Is It" concerts planned for London's O2 arena.
Murray will lose his medical license as a result of the conviction is upheld.
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