Convicted Jackson doctor could be free within months

Mon Nov 7, 2011 9:11pm EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Jackson's doctor may spend as little as a few months behind bars despite being convicted on Monday of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of the "Thriller" singer.

Legal experts said that Dr. Conrad Murray was ultimately likely to benefit from a new California law that deals with chronic overcrowding in the state's jails.

Trial judge Michael Pastor could sentence Murray on November 29 to probation, home confinement or up to four years in state prison. He was found guilty of gross negligence by giving Jackson the anesthetic propofol -- normally used to sedate patients for surgery -- that was deemed the main cause of the singer's 2009 death.

But California adopted a new law last month that sends low-risk prison inmates to county jails, and the officials who run Los Angeles county jails have been releasing inmates early because of a lack of space.

"It will be very difficult to achieve an appropriate sentence of incarceration for Dr. Conrad Murray," Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, whose office prosecuted the case, told reporters on Monday.

Stan Goldman, a professor at Loyola Law School, said he was surprised that judge Pastor ordered Murray to jail for three weeks before sentencing. The physician has been free on $75,000 bail for the past two years.

"It's pretty obvious by putting him in custody, which was the biggest surprise of the entire trial, that we're probably looking at a sentence of three to four years," Goldman told Reuters.

But Goldman added: "I'd be surprised if a year from today, Conrad Murray was still behind bars."   Continued...