With the involuntary manslaughter trial of former [artist id="1102"]Michael Jackson[/artist] doctor Conrad Murray finally wrapped, following the jury’s guilty verdict on Monday afternoon (November 7), the next question is, how much time will Murray serve behind bars and where?
Before the jury’s verdict came down on Monday, MTV News spoke to Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Mike Cavalluzzi, who explained what kind of sentence Murray is likely to face.
“The overcrowding laws in state prison right now could very well result in Conrad Murray getting a probationary sentence, meaning that any custody time would be spent in county jail rather than state prison,” said Cavalluzzi, who does not have first-hand knowledge of the case, but has worked a range of criminal matters in L.A. courts from misdemeanor battery to homicide. “Right now, the ruling is that state prisons should be only for the most violent offenders, and I don’t think that Conrad Murray would fall into that category.”
Cavalluzzi said that involuntary manslaughter, of which Murray was convicted on one count, is a nonviolent offense that doesn’t involve the cardiologist being accused of intentionally harming Jackson. “What they’re saying is that he may have been a good man who made a horrible mistake and that the mistake that he made rises to criminal negligence,” he said.
After the verdict was announced, Murray was denied bail and ordered to jail , where he will remain in custody until his November 29 sentencing hearing.
Although the charge Murray was facing carried a maximum four-year prison sentence, Cavalluzzi said that often times a defendant like Murray, with no criminal record and who has been convicted for the first time, has a very good chance of staying out of custody altogether. But given the high-profile nature of the case and the pressure from Jackson’s family — Michael’s mother Katherine, father Joe and siblings Jermaine and La Toya Jackson were among the family members who turned up at the courthouse after the verdict on Monday — to have Murray slapped with the maximum penalty, it’s likely he will do some time in custody.
Following the announcement of the guilty verdict, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley confirmed to reporters that due to those recent changes in California law, Murray was not likely to do any prison time. “It was a homicide, someone lost their life, three children lost time with their father because of someone’s criminal negligence,” said Cooley when asked if the prosecution was worth it given the almost-certain knowledge that Murray would not spend time in prison. “In that regard, it was worth it to prove that point.”
Cooley lashed out at the new sentencing guidelines (called AB109) for nonviolent offenders and reiterated that he was against them from the beginning, labeling them a “fool’s errand,” and predicting that the Murray case would be the first of “many, many, many poster children cases that will reveal why 109 is a complete failure and criminal justice disaster.”
Professor Robert Weisberg, co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center and a law professor at Sanford agreed that because of sentencing laws, Murray will probably do his time in county lockup. “Involuntary manslaughter might sound violent, but it’s not, so he won’t go to prison,” said Weisberg, who does not have a connection to the case either.
As we’ve seen with other nonviolent offenders such as Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, the overcrowding situation in Los Angeles county jail is also an issue, and due to similar mandates, defendants often avoid serving anywhere near their full sentences in county as well.
“It is very common, especially for a probationary sentence, where someone is sentenced to custody time in county jail, that the county will then release them on something called house arrest,” Cavalluzzi said. “It is very common in a case like this that someone could be given house arrest if they are sentenced to probation.”
House arrest has several forms, though, which can range from 24-hour-lockdown home confinement, where a person is prohibited from leaving their home to exceptions in which they are allowed to come and go for doctor’s appointments, counseling or professional business.
At the sentencing hearing later this month, Jackson’s family is likely to make the case for the maximum sentence, while the defense may once again bring up former patients and colleagues who will attest to the doctor’s good qualities. In the end, though, it is up to the judge to decide Murray’s sentence. “[Both arguments] could sway the judge either way,” Cavalluzzi said. “It’s difficult to know how home confinement would look for Dr. Murray because one of the main exceptions to home confinement is a person’s ability to continue to engage in their livelihood.”
Given that Murray is now a convicted felon who has been found guilty of homicide in California, Cooley said the doctor will lose his license to practice medicine in the state. He added that he hoped other states would follow suit and revoke Murray’s right to practice medicine as well.
MTV News will be covering the Conrad Murray case live. Go to MTVNews.com for breaking news, reactions and analysis from Los Angeles or tune to MTV for the latest updates.