Page last updated at 01:04 GMT, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Michael Jackson's doctor denies manslaughter charge


The judge told Dr Murray he must not administer anaesthetic

Michael Jackson's former doctor has denied a charge of involuntary manslaughter over the singer's death, at a court in Los Angeles.

Dr Conrad Murray was bailed for $75,000 (£48,000) after pleading not guilty to "unlawfully, and without malice, killing Michael Joseph Jackson".

A judge must decide whether to proceed to trial. A conviction could bring a jail term of up to four years.

Jackson died at his home on 25 June last year at the age of 50.

His death was ruled as homicide, mainly caused by the anaesthetic Propofol.

'Not enough'

A cocktail of drugs - including sedatives midazolam and diazepam, the painkiller lidocaine and the stimulant ephedrine - were also detected in his body, a coroner confirmed.

Members of the Jackson family arrive at court for Dr Murray's hearing

Prosecutors had filed one count of involuntary manslaughter.

Dr Murray stood straight and spoke softly as he addressed the judge.

After entering his plea, Dr Murray surrendered his passport. He was then taken to have his fingerprints and a mugshot processed.

He is allowed to continue to practice medicine, but cannot use certain drugs.

Judge Keith Schwartz told Dr Murray: "You may not under any circumstances use any anaesthetic agents, specifically Propofol.

"You are not to be using that, you're not to prescribe that, you're not to have it in any manner whatsoever... and you are not to give any other heavy sedative medications like that."

The bail of $75,000 was three times the standard figure for involuntary manslaughter, but a quarter of the sum prosecutors had been seeking.

The next hearing has been set for 5 April.

Members of Michael Jackson's family - father Joe, mother Katherine, brothers Jermaine, Tito, Jackie and Randy and sister LaToya - were in court for the hearing.

When asked by a reporter as he arrived what he thought about Dr Murray being charged with involuntary manslaughter, Jermaine said simply: "It's not enough".

Joe Jackson said only "looking for justice".

Shouting fans

A lawyer for the family, Brian Oxman, speaking to CBS television, said of the involuntary manslaughter charge: "I don't think it would satisfy anybody, the millions of fans around the world."

A number of the singer's fans had shouted "justice for Michael" as Dr Murray arrived at court.

Mark Lester, who is godfather to one of Michael Jackson's children, told the BBC's Newshour someone should be punished.

"At the end of the day it's not going to bring Michael back. There has to be some punishment meted out if only to prevent a further occurrence of this happening.

"It's just the most horrible, horrible scenario. There are no winners here."

Dr Murray had been hired to be Jackson's personal physician last spring as the singer prepared for his comeback concerts in London.

We'll make bail, we'll plead not guilty and we'll fight like hell
Ed Chernoff
Lawyer for Dr Conrad Murray

He told police he had been giving Jackson Propofol as part of his treatment for insomnia, according to an affidavit made public in August.

But he has always maintained he neither prescribed nor administered anything that should have killed the singer.

After a week of speculation over the manslaughter charge, Dr Murray had been expected to surrender to authorities last Friday.

But a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles district attorney said the office had decided to delay action until Monday.

The statement came after several days of negotiations, where Dr Murray's lawyers tried to arrange for him to surrender to prosecutors in an attempt to avoid him being handcuffed and arrested.

Dr Murray was not handcuffed as he arrived in court.

Speaking before the charges were filed, the physician's defence lawyer, Ed Chernoff, said the doctor was prepared for the legal battle ahead.

"We'll make bail, we'll plead not guilty and we'll fight like hell," he said.

The charge follows months of careful investigation, with prosecutors said to be keen to avoid an unsuccessful high-profile prosecution like that of former football star OJ Simpson.

Originally from Grenada, Dr Murray moved to the US and trained as a doctor.

In 2000, he opened his own practice in Las Vegas, expanding with a second clinic in Houston in 2006.

However, he encountered financial difficulties and reports suggest he filed for bankruptcy in 2002 while living in California.

Jackson hired the physician on a salary of more than $150,000 (£96,000) a month in May 2009.

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