By Eric Kelsey and Jonathan Alcorn
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Jackson's personal physician, convicted of manslaughter for administering a lethal dose of anesthetic to the pop singer, was released from a Los Angeles prison on Monday after serving half of his four-year sentence.
Conrad Murray was released to his representatives, Los Angeles County Sheriff spokesman Steve Whitmore said shortly after Murray left the county jail. The release came under a California state plan to reduce prison overcrowding.
Murray's six-week trial grabbed global attention after "Billie Jean" singer Jackson, preparing for a series of comeback concerts in London, died unexpectedly in 2009 at age 50.
Reporters waited outside the jail for Murray, but he was whisked out through a back exit away from view. A few Jackson fans were also were present, one playing music from his 1982 album "Thriller," the top-selling album of all time with more than 50 million copies sold.
Jackson's death prompted an outpouring of support for the "King of Pop" after years of bad publicity, stemming from his increasingly bizarre behavior and a child molestation trial in which he was acquitted. Today, he is the top-earning dead celebrity, according to Forbes.
Prosecutors successfully argued that Grenada-born Murray, who was hired by concert promoter AEG Live as Jackson's general practitioner, was grossly negligent in administering propofol, a drug that was used to help the singer sleep.
Murray, 60, was convicted in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter - or unintentional killing without malice - and received the maximum four-year penalty.
Murray's attorneys presented the case that Jackson had injected himself with the powerful anesthetic. A California appellate court has yet to hear oral arguments in Murray's bid to overturn his conviction.
"He's prepared to keep fighting this as long as it takes," Murray's attorney Valerie Wass said ahead of her client's release.
AEG Live was cleared earlier this month, in a civil lawsuit brought by Jackson's children and mother, of negligently hiring the cardiologist. The jury in that case found Murray had acted outside of the role for which he was hired.
Wass has said the physician wants to practice medicine again after his release from prison.
Murray's license to practice has been suspended in California, Nevada and Texas, each of the states where he had been able to work prior to Jackson's death. His license in Hawaii lapsed in 2010.
Murray has kept his name in the headlines during his time in prison by releasing sometimes rambling messages to the media and granting live telephone interviews to NBC's Matt Lauer and CNN's Anderson Cooper within the past year.
In one instance, Murray began singing on Cooper's "AC360" program, and in another he told Jackson's teenage daughter Paris that he loved her like a father and recited part of Jackson's song "You Are Not Alone" in a message meant for her.
(Editing by Mary Milliken/Jeremy Gaunt)