Manslaughter charge for Jackson doctor

The long-pending criminal trial of the man who is alleged to have caused Michael Jackson's death by administering a devastating cocktail of drugs will move a step closer today, when prosecutors in Los Angeles are expected to charge Dr Conrad Murray with manslaughter.

Dr Murray was the physician at Jackson's bedside, and in the hours before his fatal cardiac arrest, he gave his 50-year-old client powerful doses of at least four different prescription drugs. He spent yesterday negotiating the terms of his surrender with the police.

"The specifics [of the surrender] have not yet been agreed to," read a statement released on the internet site of Dr Murray's Lawyer, Ed Chernoff. "Until then, we will not be sharing the agreement terms or conducting any further interviews with the media."

Details of the case against Dr Murray will be outlined when he is arraigned in court around 1.30pm local time [9.30pm GMT]. Police documents suggest that he will be accused of acting as an "enabler" for his private client, who had a long-standing addiction to prescription drugs.

On the night of Michael Jackson's death in June, Murray, who had suffered financial problems but who was being paid $90,000 a month as the singer's personal doctor in the run-up to a series of comeback concerts at the O2 Arena in London, administered strong doses of at least four drugs: propofol, valium, lorazepam and midazolam.

They were intended to help Jackson sleep. But prosecutors will claim that all the substances are dangerous in large doses and should never be mixed. If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Dr Murray faces a maximum sentence of four years.

That's unlikely to satisfy either the singer's fans or his family, whose lawyer Brian Oxman said yesterday that his clients believe Dr Murray should instead face charges of second-degree murder. "[Manslaughter] is just a slap on the wrist, and a slap in the face, because Michael Jackson was someone who we knew was in danger of being ... brought to his death," he said.

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