Judge orders Michael Jackson doctor to stand trial

Judge orders Michael Jackson doctor to stand trial

Credit: AP

Michael Flanagan, attorney for Michael Jackson's personal physician, Conrad Murray, leaves a court hearing Tuesday Jan. 11, 2011 in Los Angeles. A judge on Tuesday ordered Murray to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter after hearing testimony that he administered a lethal dose of a powerful anesthetic to pop star Michael Jackson. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

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by Linda Deutsch

The Associated Press

Posted on January 11, 2011 at 9:59 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician who was demonized by Michael Jackson's family and fans, was ordered Tuesday to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter after court testimony showed he administered a powerful anesthetic and other sedatives then left the pop star alone.  

The ruling set the stage for what could be the final chapter in the Jackson saga -- a high-profile trial that will examine all aspects of the star's death and try to finally place responsibility for his demise at the age of 50.  

Witnesses at the six-day preliminary hearing filled a number of gaps in the story of Jackson's final hours, with accounts of his actions and the sad plight of two of his children watching briefly as their father lay dying.  

Other witnesses recounted Murray's claim that he delayed calling 911 for perhaps more than an hour while he tried to revive the singer. A security guard indicated that Murray seemed to be rushing to hide evidence before paramedics arrived.  

Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said the hearing included sufficient evidence to support a possible finding of guilt at trial. Murray's defense attorney Ed Chernoff and prosecutors declined comment on the ruling.  

Jackson's famous family members were in court and welcomed the development.  

"I'm happy so far," LaToya Jackson said while walking to her car. Randy Jackson thanked prosecutors while flashing a peace sign outside the courtroom.  

Murray, 57, has pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys have said he did not give Jackson anything that should have killed him. Murray could face up to four years in prison if convicted.  

Compounding Murray's losses in court, the judge also granted a request by the California Medical Board to suspend his license to practice medicine in California. Murray currently has offices in Nevada and Texas, but the judge ordered him to notify authorities in those states of his suspension.  

Chernoff pleaded with the judge not to take the action saying, "If you do that, he's dead in the water. He has no practice anymore. his patients have no doctor."  

Pastor said he was acting in the interest of public safety and refused to stay the ruling for an appeal. He also declined to increase Murray's $75,000 bail, rejecting prosecution arguments that there was risk he would flee.  

Witnesses at the preliminary hearing said Murray admitted giving Jackson the powerful anesthetic propofol and other sedatives then leaving him alone in his bedroom only to return and find him not breathing.  

Murray's lawyers raised the possibility that Jackson, desperate for sleep, had self-administered the final dose of propofol, causing his own death.  

Prosecutors concluded their case with testimony from two doctors who said Murray acted outside the standard of medical care when he administered the propofol and failed to provide proper care.  

Both witnesses said that even if Jackson had self-administered the final dose of the drug, his death would be a homicide because of Murray's actions.  

During closing arguments, defense attorney Joseph Low IV argued the case should be dismissed because prosecutors didn't adequately prove how Murray caused Jackson's death.  

He also suggested Jackson's health may have been a contributing cause, saying, "Sometimes when it's your time to go, there's nothing you can do."  

Deputy District Attorney David Walgren angrily disagreed.  

"In contrast to Mr. Low's comment, let me just say, it was not Michael Jackson's time to go," "Because of Dr. Murray's actions, Michael's children are left without a father."  

One of the final witnesses was Dr. Christopher Rogers, chief of forensic medicine for the Los Angeles County coroner.  

During cross-examination, defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan suggested Jackson could have swallowed propofol, which is meant to be administered intravenously.  

While Rogers said that seemed unlikely, he said it would not have made a difference in his finding of homicide because of inadequate care by Murray.  

Rogers also testified that propofol should not have been present in the bedroom because it was meant only for hospital settings. Jackson had a strong heart and was mostly healthy, Rogers added.  

"The care was substandard," Rogers said. "There were several actions that should have been taken."  

Rogers also testified that Murray was improperly using propofol to treat the musician for insomnia, and that Murray was wrong to leave Jackson's side while he was under anesthesia before he died.  

Another witness. Dr. Richard Ruffalo, an anesthesiologist and clinical pharmacologist, gave the judge an exhaustive rundown on the sophisticated medical equipment that should have been present when Murray administered propofol in Jackson's bedroom.  

Among the devices were monitoring equipment for heart and lungs and resuscitation equipment.  

"You need to know what you're doing with the expectation your patient will wake up quickly," Ruffalo said. "Even if you're using propofol for a short time, it can do a lot of unfortunate things, especially if mixed with other drugs."  

Prosecutors used testimony and phone records to create a timeline during the hearing of Jackson's final hours on June 25, 2009.  

Detective Orlando Martinez said Murray told police he left the room for only two minutes after giving Jackson a 25 milligram dose of propofol about 10:40 a.m. He said he returned to find him not breathing.  

Phone records showed 911 was not called until 12:21 p.m.  

Jackson's burly former bodyguard Alberto Alvarez testified that Murray instructed him to place medicine vials in bags before calling 911 on the day Jackson died. Two paramedics said Murray didn't tell them he had given Jackson propofol.  

Martinez testified that Murray described a nearly 10-hour ordeal of trying to get Jackson to sleep, giving him a valium pill and two other sedatives intravenously before yielding to the singer's demands for propofol.  

Jackson called the anesthetic his "milk," and coroner's investigators later found several vials of it in a bag labeled "Baby Essentials" in Jackson's closet.  

Martinez said Jackson told Murray if he couldn't get sleep, he might have to cancel his widely heralded "This is It" comeback tour. The doctor spoke of feeling pressured to give the star the propofol he wanted, the detective said.  

Jackson had been receiving propofol intravenously six nights a week for the two months before his death, Murray told detectives.  

Pastor set Murray's next hearing for Jan. 25 when he will set a trial date.
------
AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this story.  

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)
 

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