Crowding could shrink jail time for Jackson`s doc

Last Updated: Nov 09, 2011, 10:01 AM IST

Los Angeles: Michael Jackson`s doctor is guaranteed to spend the next three weeks in jail awaiting sentencing for the pop star`s death.

But the amount of time he serves after that could be shortened because of California`s overcrowded prison system.

Nonviolent offenders such as Murray are being redirected from state prisons to county jails to save money and reduce the state prison population to obey a US court order.

Law enforcement authorities have said nonviolent offenders could be released earlier to make room for more serious offenders, who are sent to county rather than state lockups.

Jail overcrowding led to actress Lindsay Lohan walking out of county jail Monday after spending less than five hours of a 30-day sentence behind bars for a probation violation.

Murray was convicted for supplying an insomnia-plagued Jackson with a powerful operating-room anesthetic to help him sleep as he rehearsed for his big comeback. Murray, 58, was handcuffed and immediately led off to jail without bail to await sentencing November 29.

"This is a crime where the end result (was) the death of a human being," Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said. "Dr Murray`s reckless conduct in this case poses a demonstrable risk to the safety of the public" if he remains free on bond.

Though a judge could sentence Murray to a maximum sentence of four years, the Los Angeles County Sheriff`s Department will decide just how long he actually spends in county jail, based on time served, good behaviour and other factors.

Even without realignment, a four-year sentence could be cut in half if Murray stays out of trouble in jail.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley has criticised the realignment plan, saying already overburdened counties can`t handle additional inmates.

After Murray was convicted Monday of involuntary manslaughter, Cooley said Murray "is probably the first of many, many, many poster-children cases that will reveal how (the law) is potentially a complete failure, a criminal justice disaster, and it will impact public safety."

Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, declined to comment on how the realignment might affect Murray. Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Sheriff`s Department, also declined to comment.

Defense attorney Ed Chernoff said the verdict for Murray was a disappointment and would be appealed.

PTI