Jackson family to face doctor charged in death

The doctor charged in Michael Jackson's death faces a procedural hearing today, but it has prompted authorities to brace for a crowd of fans and media as well as more than a dozen members of the deceased superstar's family.

Dr Conrad Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, and the hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court is aimed at assigning a judge to try the case and setting a preliminary hearing date.

Normally, such a procedural hearing would draw few spectators. But with Jackson's death as the backdrop, crowds of fans and media are expected. And Jackson family members, including his parents and siblings, are committed to attending all court proceedings against Murray. Some of them have suggested the charge of involuntary manslaughter is not severe enough.

If convicted, Murray would face a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said the Jackson family notified court officials of their plans because seats need to be reserved for them in the courtroom.

"There will be more than a dozen, possibly as many as 15," she said.

Allan Parachini, spokesman for the Los Angeles courts, said a large contingent of international media also is expected and the sheriff's department is preparing for a crowd.

"It's basically a housekeeping hearing, but it will be the housekeeping hearing heard around the world," said Loyola University law professor Laurie Levenson. "I'm already getting e-mails from France. There is no detail too minute for the international media."

Among items to be addressed by supervising Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza is Murray's fight to keep his medical license. The California Attorney General, representing the state medical board, has moved to revoke his license pending trial. Murray says that if he can't continue practicing medicine he will have no way to pay for his defense.

The doctor has a history of serious financial problems and his attorneys, Ed Chernoff and Joseph Low, said in a court filing Tuesday that the effect would be devastating to Murray.

"He is, without fear of overstatement, hanging on by a thread," the attorneys wrote. "His ability to pay for his own defense depends almost entirely on his ability to continue to treat patients."

Murray, 57, a cardiologist, has clinics in Las Vegas and Houston and also has a license to practice in California. Should his California license be lifted, his lawyers suggest there would be a "domino effect" with other states moving to do the same.

Already, Nevada authorities have filed a formal complaint against Murray saying he twice failed to mention delinquent child support payments on applications to renew his medical license. Miranda Sevcik, spokeswoman for Murray and Chernoff says Murray's legal team hopes to resolve it in a way that allows the doctor to keep his license.

As a condition of his $75,000 bail, Murray has been ordered not to administer any anesthetic.

Jackson was 50 and about to launch a series of comeback shows in London when he died last June after being rushed to a hospital from his Beverly Hills home. Murray, who signed on in May at $150,000 per month to keep Jackson healthy through the comeback tour, told police he had been treating him for insomnia.

The pop star was found to have died from acute intoxication with the hospital anesthetic propofol and other sedatives as a contributing factor.

Chernoff has said that nothing Murray gave the singer should have killed him.

The defense is expected to complain Monday that prosecutors have been slow turning over the case records under discovery laws. Gibbons said there are "hundreds of thousands of pages" of material to be catalogued and stamped before it is turned over.

"We are giving them two to three thousand pages at a time," she said.

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