Jackson doctor 'being treated like Hannibal Lecter'

The civil attorney for the doctor convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of Michael Jackson says his client is coping with tight jail security and his isolation, and remains optimistic that he will win an upcoming appeal.

The civil attorney for the doctor convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of Michael Jackson says his client is coping with tight jail security and his isolation, and remains optimistic that he will win an upcoming appeal.

Charles Peckham says sheriff's deputies appear to be enforcing more security on Conrad Murray than on other prisoners at Los Angeles's main men's jail.

Mr Peckham likened the heavy shackles left on Murray during a meeting on Tuesday as treatment more appropriate for the fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter.

Murray is expected to serve roughly two years of a four-year sentence for the involuntary manslaughter death of Jackson in June 2009.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore says Murray has extra security because of his notoriety and deputies are being "extra cautious" for his safety.

"Treating him like Hannibal Lecter is offensive," Mr Peckham said, but sheriff's officials defended the security measures at Men's Central Jail, saying they were for Murray's safety.

The attorney had to obtain a court order on Tuesday to meet Murray to discuss strategy on a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Jackson's father. Mr 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 Mr 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," he said. The doctor spoke extensively to documentary film-makers 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", Mr 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 lock-up.

Mr Peckham said Murray, who has been jailed since a jury convicted him of involuntary manslaughter on November 7, is optimistic that the courts will grant an appeal on the case.

Mr Peckham's visit came hours after the physician, who was never paid the 150,000 dollars 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 defence lawyers, agreed with Mr 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. Mr 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," Mr Whitmore said. "It's not so much the crime itself."

Mr Peckham said he did not "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 had 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. Mr 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 on Tuesday that he would rely on a court-funded attorney to help craft his appeal. The US Supreme Court has ruled that felony convicts have a constitutional right to assistance of counsel.

Mr 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 anaesthetic 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.

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