Michael Jackson’s Physician to Be Charged & The Meaning of Surrender

February 5, 2011

Charges against Dr. Conrad Murry are finally expected this Monday in the death of Michael Jackson. As typical in high profile cases, there may already be unfair treatment of the good doctor.

It is anticipated that Dr. Murray will be charged with involuntary manslaughter surrounding the pop stars death and his attorneys have been diligently working on a surrender deal with the L.A. County District Attorneys office. “Surrender” occurs when a defendant (usually through his attorneys) agrees to present himself to police in order to avoid arrest. Such agreements usually occur when there is a “low risk” defendant and typically (but not always) when there is a non-violent offense involved. These surrender agreements are quite common and serve valuable functions. Among these are:

A. that it saves law enforcement valuable resources in locating and arresting an individual; and

B. providing the defendant to appear at a police station for booking and immediately arranging for bail–so as to avoid the humiliation of arrest and time in jail.

It appears that negotiations between Dr. Murray’s attorneys and the DA’s office broke down because of the DA’s belief that allowing a surrender would appear as “special treatment.” However, with no criminal record, no risk of flight, and the relatively minor charges anticipated, Dr. Murray squarely fits into the typical scenario where such surrender is appropriate. To say nothing of the fact that the Dr. has allegedly cooperated throughout the entire investigation.

The DA’s office apparent zeal to parade Dr. Murray in handcuffs rather than to offer a surrender option is perhaps another example of its overreaching and questionable judgment in another high profile case.