Judge orders Michael Jackson doctor to stand trial

Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:12pm EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A judge on Tuesday ordered Michael Jackson's doctor to stand trial on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the pop star's drug overdose death and suspended the doctor's California medical license.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor found that enough evidence exists to bring Dr. Conrad Murray to trial for the "Thriller" singer's death in June 2009, due principally to an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol.

"I order the defendant be held to answer" for the crime, Pastor said after six days of testimony in a preliminary hearing as Jackson's sister, LaToya, and his brother, Randy, looked on.

Involuntary manslaughter is defined as an unintentional killing without malice and is a lesser charge than murder. Still, Murray faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

During the hearing, prosecutors brought to the witness stand a Jackson employee who testified that Murray ordered him to hide drug evidence the day the singer died, June 25. Phone records showed Murray called his girlfriend shortly after giving Jackson propofol, instead of caring for the singer.

Coroners ruled Jackson died from propofol and the effect of sedatives including lorazepam, but the anesthetic was the key drug. Propofol is most often used in hospitals, but Jackson took it as a sleep aid. Murray has admitted giving the singer propofol.

Defense attorneys have suggested Jackson may have injected himself with the fatal dose, but a pair of medical experts testified on Tuesday that even if that were the case, Murray was still be responsible because he supplied the propofol.

"It's like a heroin addict -- you're going to walk away from him with a syringe full of heroin next to him? It's the same thing with propofol," said Dr. Richard Ruffalo, an anesthesiologist at California's Hoag Clinic.   Continued...

<p>Dr. Conrad Murray's defense attorney, John Michael Flanagan speaks to reporters as he leaves the Criminal Courts building in Los Angeles, California January 11, 2011 after a judge ordered Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, to stand trial on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the pop star's death. Jackson died of a drug overdose in June 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>