Commentary by Ann Fitz, special to HLN
As the trial against Dr. Conrad Murray progresses and the prosecution methodically strengthens its case with each witness, it seems to beg the question: Why would Michael Jackson’s personal physician even decide to go to trial in the first place?
What advantage does Dr. Murray gain by going to trial, and what exactly does he have to lose if the jury returns a verdict of guilty?
Under California law, involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 4 years in prison. It’s important to note that each year a convicted defendant spends in jail costs taxpayers approximately $30,000. What that translates to in this day and age of budget cuts and jail overcrowding is the likelihood of a straight probationary sentence for Dr. Murray if he is convicted, especially considering that he has no prior criminal history. If he does perchance receive any jail time (assuming there is a conviction), Dr. Murray will end up serving a fraction of the sentence, vis-à-vis Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.
So with no threat to his physical freedom, why didn’t Dr. Murray just enter a plea of guilty or no contest and bypass trial in the courts of law and public opinion?
My guess is Dr. Murray is attempting to save his medical license: if he were to admit guilt of negligently treating a patient, there is no way the medical board would ever reinstate his license. But by proclaiming his innocence, even if convicted, there is a chance, however slight, of having his medical license reinstated.
And that, after all, is the beauty of our country: not only do criminal defendants enjoy the presumption of innocence, but they are afforded the chance of redemption after conviction.
However, after a lengthy and publicized trial detailing the acts and omissions of Dr. Murray’s medical practice, who in their right mind will ever entrust Dr. Murray with their life again?
Complete coverage of the Conrad Murray trial live on HLN from gavel to gavel and on In Session from 9a to 3p ET every week day.