Jackson doctor pleads not guilty in singer's death

Mon Feb 8, 2010 8:23pm EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The doctor hired to care for Michael Jackson was charged on Monday with killing the pop star after a lengthy investigation that found a lethal cocktail of drugs in the singer's system when he died last year.

Dr. Conrad Murray, who lives in Las Vegas, pleaded not guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death that officials have ruled was due mainly to an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol, among several drugs.

Murray was heckled by Jackson fans chanting "murderer" as he entered a Los Angeles courthouse in a crisp grey suit and red tie. Once in court, he faced angry members of Jackson's family, including mother Katherine and brother Jermaine.

The doctor remained stoic during the proceeding and when addressed by the judge, spoke softly. He was admonished not to leave the country and not to give any patient an anesthetic. He posted bail of $75,000 and was allowed to leave.

To reach a guilty verdict for involuntary manslaughter -- meaning Murray killed Jackson but he did so without malice -- jurors must believe that whatever the doctor did to Jackson went beyond an accident and was criminally negligent.

Murray, 56, faces up to four years in prison if convicted. He is still allowed to practice medicine, although prosecutors filed a motion to revoke his license.

"This has been a nightmare for him for many different reasons. One of the reasons is he lost a friend" in Jackson, Murray's attorney Ed Chernoff told reporters outside the courthouse. He said Murray was headed home to Las Vegas.

Murray, a cardiologist, was hired in May 2009 to care for Jackson as he prepared for a series of comeback concerts aimed at reviving a career sidelined by the singer's 2005 trial and acquittal on charges of molesting a 13-year-old boy.   Continued...

<p>Doctor Conrad Murray, the late Michael Jackson's personal physician, arrives at the Los Angeles Superior Court Airport Branch Courthouse to face involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Michael Jackson in Los Angeles, February 8, 2010. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>