Conrad Murray Verdict: Will He Go to Prison?

It is being questioned whether the doctor will be sent to prison at all.

ByABC News
November 8, 2011, 4:21 AM

Nov. 8, 2011— -- Dr. Conrad Murray's conviction for the involuntary manslaughter of Michael Jackson could result in a maximum of four years in prison, but it's possible that the doctor may not go to prison.

"It will be very difficult to achieve an appropriate sentence of incarceration for Conrad Murray," District Attorney Steve Cooley said Monday. Overcrowding in California's prisons and Murray's lack of a prior criminal record will most likely be major factors in his sentence.

Michael Jackson was 50 when he died June 25, 2009 as he was preparing for his "This Is It" tour, a comeback extravaganza that he hoped would restore him as a superstar. Murray was accused of causing the singer's death by administering the powerful anesthetic propofol and not properly supervising his patients or taking proper steps after Jackson stopped breathing.

A combination of factors will play into the sentence Murray is set to receive Nov. 29 from Judge Michael Pastor. After Monday's verdict Pastor denied a request by the doctor's lawyers to allow him to remain free until sentencing, stating that "public safety demands that he be remanded" to jail.

District Attorney Cooley also said that Murray's felony conviction would result in the automatic suspension of his medical license in California, and that he hopes other states will honor California's convictions.

The lightest sentence that Murray could receive is probation, since Murray is a defendant with no prior criminal record -- a factor that Judge Pastor will be taking into account.

However the high-profile nature of the case could also play a role in Pastor's decision, and if his attitude towards Murray's crime on Monday was any indication, he may not go lightly.

"This is not a crime involving a mistake of judgment," Pastor said. "This is a crime where the end result was the death of a human being. That factor demonstrates rather dramatically that the public should be protected."

Speaking on "Good Morning America" this morning, Murray's attorney Nareg Gourdjian said that he did not expect his client to be taken to jail on Monday.

"We were all surprised by the judge remanding Dr. Murray," Gourdjian said. "We felt that due to the type of offense and his lack of a criminal record that the judge should have released him on his own recognizance pending the sentencing. But I think the judge's response is a pretty good indication as to possibly how he will respond at the sentencing."

"There's a number of factors that he court needs to consider which would be the type of offense, Dr. Murray's lack of a prior criminal history -- based on that we would hope that the judge would impose a probationary sentence with a little bit, if any, county jail time. That's what we're expecting, that's what we're hoping but, again, the judge can impose a state prison with the minimum term of being two years, the midterm of three years and the upper term of four years."

Another major factor in Murray's sentence could be the recent California prison realignment bill AB 109, which has led to criminals receiving reduced or alternate sentences.

"I think that unfortunately because of AB 109 -- a completely potentially failed system that is now in place -- it will be very difficult to achieve an appropriate sentence," Cooley said Monday.

If Murray were to be jailed, AB 109 would most likely steer the doctor away from going to state prison. Instead he would serve whatever sentence he received in a Los Angeles county jail.

Another possibility is that Murray could serve his time at home under house arrest, a sentence that is handed out more often as a result of prison overcrowding.

Speaking on "Good Morning America" Tuesday, ABC News Legal Analyst Dan Abrams agreed that Murray's punishment will likely not be as harsh as possible.

"This is a crime where he may serve little to almost no time behind bars, so to immediately slap the cuffs on him and send him to jail is clearly intended to send a message," Abrams said. "I think it's the judge saying, in effect, 'I know that he's not going to serve the kind of time the public expects and I want to make sure they, the public, know how seriously I'm treating this.'

"[To be] really hard on him still won't mean a lot of time. Even if he gets, theoretically, the maximum four years, which I think is unlikely, he still won't serve anything like that. I think that it's clearly a message on the judge's part," Abrams added.