LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Jackson’s doctor was charged Monday with involuntary manslaughter, capping an exhaustive investigation into the pop star’s stunning death last summer and setting up the prospect of another sensational celebrity courtroom drama.
Dr. Conrad Murray, a cardiologist who was with Jackson when he died June 25 at his rented Los Angeles mansion, is accused of acting “unlawfully and without malice” in bringing about Jackson’s death, according to a complaint filed by prosecutors.
The complaint said Murray acted “without the caution and circumspection required” when he administered a powerful sedative to Jackson in an effort to help him sleep.
The charge was expected, and Murray’s attorney, Ed Chernoff, said his client planned to surrender to authorities later Monday.
“We’ll make bail, we’ll plead not guilty and we’ll fight like hell,” Chernoff said before the charge was filed.
Jackson hired Murray to be his personal physician as he prepared for a series of strenuous comeback concerts in London. Officials say the singer died after Murray administered the powerful general anesthetic propofol and two other sedatives to get the chronic insomniac to sleep.
Los Angeles investigators were methodical in building a case against Murray, wary of repeating missteps that have plagued some other high-profile celebrity cases, most notably O.J. Simpson and actor Robert Blake, both of whom were acquitted of murder.
After reviewing toxicology findings, the coroner ruled Jackson’s death at age 50 a homicide caused by acute intoxication of the powerful anesthetic propofol, with other sedatives a contributing factor.
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The Arraignment Of Dr. Conrad
Propofol is only supposed to be administered by an anesthesia professional in a medical setting, because it depresses breathing and heart rate while lowering blood pressure.
Murray appears to have obtained the drug legally and its use is not in itself a crime. To show the doctor was negligent in his care, detectives spoke to more than 10 medical experts to see if his behavior fell outside the bounds of reasonable medical practice.
According to court documents, Murray told police he administered propofol just before 11 a.m. then stepped out of the room to go to the bathroom.
There is some dispute about what happened next. According to court filings, Murray told police that upon his return from the bathroom, he saw Jackson was not breathing and began trying to revive him.
But an ambulance was not called until 12:21 p.m. and Murray spent much of the intervening time making non-emergency cell phone calls, police say. The nature of the calls, which lasted 47 minutes, is not known.
Murray’s lawyer has said investigators got confused about what Murray had told them, and that the doctor found his patient unresponsive around noon.
The investigation included several agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department, the district attorney’s office and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
Many witnesses have been interviewed by police, including those who were present during Jackson’s last days, those who worked with him in preparation for his series of comeback concerts, “This Is It,” and members of his personal entourage, including his security guard and personal assistant.
Michael Jackson Death Case To Be Filed Monday
LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson’s doctor wanted to seek his day in court Friday by surrendering before being charged in the singer’s death, but prosecutors upstaged the plan by announcing that no case would be filed until next week.
District attorney’s spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons released the plan less than two hours before Dr. Conrad Murray and his attorneys were going to show up at an airport-area courthouse in an effort to force the prosecution’s hand while avoiding having the physician arrested and handcuffed.
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Gibbons’ statement did not mention Murray, but said information on charges will be released after the case is filed on Monday.
A news conference that had been scheduled Friday afternoon by Murray’s defense team in lieu of his surrender was canceled an hour before it was to begin at a park near the courthouse.
Murray’s attorneys have said they expect the Texas cardiologist to be charged with involuntary manslaughter for administering drugs to Jackson before his death on June 25. It was not immediately clear if Murray would return to Houston, where he has a practice, or remain in Los Angeles through the weekend.
Lead defense attorney Ed Chernoff spoke Thursday with prosecutor David Walgren and was told to be at the courthouse at 1:30 p.m. PST (2130 GMT) Friday, only to have the county sheriff’s department, which handles court security, publicly say hours later that it was called off, defense team spokeswoman Miranda Sevcik said earlier Friday.
“What does it take to surrender in L.A.?” Sevcik said. “I feel like Ed should show up in the courthouse with a big white flag.”
Walgren declined to comment Friday.
The legal gamesmanship over Murray’s surrender followed several days of negotiations in which his lawyers tried to arrange with prosecutors for the doctor to surrender for booking and arraignment.
Those plans were derailed by haggling between prosecutors and law enforcement officials over whether the physician should be arrested or allowed to turn himself in.
“It seems ridiculous to us that it’s been dragging on this long,” Sevcik said. “We’ve been here all week long, for God’s sake. What’s the holdup? To us this is showmanship and we are just done.”
In the seven months since Jackson’s sudden death at 50 while rehearsing for a major comeback concert series, Murray has largely stayed out of view. His lawyers have spoken very little. And prosecutors and investigators have been tightlipped.
Sevcik said prosecutors told Murray on Thursday he’d face one count of involuntary manslaughter.
Murray became the focus of the probe into Jackson’s death shortly after he called paramedics on June 25 to report that the singer wasn’t breathing. Murray told police he gave the Jackson a powerful anesthetic and other sedatives that were blamed on his death.
The doctor maintains nothing he gave Jackson should have killed him but sees a charge as inevitable, Sevcik said.
“We know he’s going to be charged with involuntary manslaughter and we are ready with a counter argument,” Sevcik said. “He’s not guilty — that’s our argument.”
Various factors weighed into the desire of the Los Angeles Police Department to arrest Murray, including the possibility he might flee before arraignment, just as O.J. Simpson did, a law enforcement official close to the investigation told The Associated Press.
Top brass at the LAPD, which spent the past seven months investigating Murray, were unhappy with the idea of him surrendering because it could appear Murray was being given special treatment, according to the official who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
The official said the district attorney’s office opposed an early plan for detectives to make the arrest Friday morning.
Watch video of Joe Jackson discussing how MJ’s staff exploited him: