Judge orders Michael Jackson doctor to stand trial
Wednesday 12 January 2011
A judge today ordered the personal physician of Michael Jackson to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter after hearing testimony that he administered a dose of a powerful anesthetic and other sedatives then left the pop star alone.
The ruling in the case against Houston cardiologist Dr. Conrad Murray came after a six-day preliminary hearing before Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor.
Prosecutors concluded their case with testimony from two doctors who said Murray acted outside the standard of medical care when he administered the anesthetic 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.
Murray's defense attorney Ed Chernoff and prosecutors declined comment on the ruling.
Jackson family members 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.
Pastor also granted a request by the California Medical Board to suspend the Murray's license to practice medicine in the state. Pastor said he made the decision in the interest of public safety and ordered Murray to notify every district in which he practices of the decision within 24 hours. Murray has clinics in Houston and Las Vegas.
During closing arguments at the preliminary hearing, another 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 said Jackson's health may have been a contributing cause.
"In contrast to Mr. Low's comment, let me just say, it was not Michael Jackson's time to go," Deputy District Attorney David Walgren said. "Because of Dr. Murray's actions, Michael's children are left without a father."
One of the final witnesses yesterday was Dr. Christopher Rogers, chief of forensic medicine for the Los Angeles County coroner.
During his 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.
Flanagan's inquiry was the first indication of how his lawyers might defend Murray at trial. Flanagan has suggested Jackson could have injected himself intravenously while Murray was out of the room.
Rogers, however, testified that propofol should not have been present in the bedroom because it was meant only for hospital settings and, "If there was propofol there, the doctor should have been prepared for the effects."
Rogers also said Jackson had a strong heart and was mostly healthy.
"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 said they expect the defense to claim Jackson administered the deadly dose himself while Murray was out of the room.
Jackson had been receiving propofol intravenously six nights a week for the two months before his death, Murray told detectives.
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