- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 8, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - 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 Dr. Conrad Murray serves after that could be shortened because of the overcrowded prison system in California.

A recently enacted realignment plan diverts nonviolent offenders such as Murray from state prisons to county jails to save money and reduce the state prison population to obey a federal court order.

However, law enforcement authorities have said nonviolent offenders could be released earlier to make room for more serious offenders in county lockups.

Jail overcrowding led to 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.

A judge could sentence Murray to a maximum sentence of four years, but it would fall to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to decide just how long he actually spends in county jail, based on time served, good behavior 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 blasted the realignment plan, saying already overburdened counties can’t handle additional inmates.

In post-verdict comments, Cooley called the new law a “fool’s errand” and 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 comment.

Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter 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, sat stone-faced as he heard the verdict that could send him to prison and cost him his license to practice medicine. He was handcuffed and immediately led off to jail without bail to await sentencing Nov. 29.

Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor was harsh with his comments about Murray after the jury left the room.

“This is a crime where the end result (was) the death of a human being,” the judge 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.

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

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