Al Seib/ReutersDr. Conrad Murray sits in Los Angeles County Superior Court as the jury returns a guilty verdict for involuntary manslaughter in singer Michael Jackson's death.
Dr. Conrad Murray’s conviction on involuntary manslaughter charges for his role in Michael Jackson's death likely will bring him years in jail.
Two years, that is, based on sentencing guidelines set out in state penal code and the formula the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation uses to calculate prisoner release.
Involuntary manslaughter is the lowest of murder charges. The crime is gross negligence or misconduct that causes death “in an unlawful manner,” according to Penal Code Section 192. The code states that this felony conviction can bring a term of two to four years, though Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor could sentence Murray to probation only.
The jury convicted Murray of administering to Jackson a lethal dose of propofol, a powerful and fast-acting anesthetic. The drug caused cardiac arrest and killed the singer on June 25, 2009.
Pastor can consider many factors as he weighs how to sentence Murray on Nov. 29. For involuntary manslaughter cases, judges often consider the convict’s history, said Peter Goodman, a San Francisco criminal defense attorney. In the case of physicians, the question becomes whether they have a record of complaints with state medical boards.
Records from the Medical Board of California show no disciplinary actions prior to Jackson’s death.
There have been multiple reprimands and restrictions on his ability to practice in the two years since. Regulators in Texas and Nevada, where Murray also has medical licenses, have prohibited him from administering anesthetics.
Prior to his sentencing, Murray will undergo an examination by the Los Angeles County probation department, and the findings might influence the judge’s decision.
Judges “rely heavily on probation for that kind of insight into the defendant,” Goodman said. “They also look for remorse. Is the person cognizant of the impact of the jury verdict, and do they accept any responsibility for what they did?”
The parole formula that California’s corrections department uses includes time served and other credits to determine the earliest and latest possible release dates for prisoners.
Under the worst-case scenario for Murray, the judge could sentence him to the maximum of four years.
The doctor was transferred to Los Angeles County jail on Monday, immediately after the verdict came down. If the judge allows the county jail time as credit for time served, Murray will subtract 23 days from his 1,460-day maximum sentence. It is unclear now what other credits he might earn before entering jail.
Therefore, Murray’s latest parole date is Nov. 6, 2015. But it’s unlikely he’ll be in a cell that long.
If Murray exhibits good behavior, he will get “incarceration credit” that cuts his sentence in half. Under the penal code, every six months served without an infraction earns Murray six months off his term. His 1,437-day sentence then becomes 718 days, according to California Watch’s calculation on the state corrections department worksheet.
His earliest parole date is Nov. 18, 2013. That would have him out of jail more than a week before Thanksgiving.
Clarification: An earlier version of this story said Murray would serve his sentence in prison. Under the state's corrections realignment, Murray would most likely serve a prison sentence in Los Angeles County jail rather than state prison.