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Officials debate whether to allow Michael Jackson's doctor to surrender

Conrad Murray is prepared to turn himself in, his lawyer says, but police are concerned that allowing him to do so might give the appearance of special treatment.

February 04, 2010|By Harriet Ryan, Jack Leonard and Richard Winton
  • Remi Nishimoto, right, of Nippon TV in Japan, sets up her microphone outside the downtown Los Angeles courthouse Wednesday. The district attorney's office could charge Dr. Conrad Murray as early as Friday.
Remi Nishimoto, right, of Nippon TV in Japan, sets up her microphone outside… (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles…)

With a criminal case against Michael Jackson's physician imminent, law enforcement agencies spent Thursday in backroom squabbles over whether to arrest the doctor or allow him to surrender, sources familiar with the discussions said.

No case has been filed against Dr. Conrad Murray, but the Los Angeles County district attorney's office is expected to charge him with involuntary manslaughter as early as Friday morning, two people involved in the matter said.

Murray is prepared to turn himself in to authorities, hand over his passport and put up bail money, his lawyer said.

"We've always made it clear: You tell us where, we'll be there," attorney Ed Chernoff said.

But some in the Los Angeles Police Department, which spent seven months building a case against the 56-year-old cardiologist, are pushing for him to be placed in handcuffs and taken into custody by officers, a departmental source said. The source said police were concerned that allowing Murray to walk into a police station or courthouse suggested to the public, including potential future jurors, that he was entitled to special treatment and was a "white-collar" case rather than a criminal accused of causing a man's death.

Publicly, the district attorney's office refused to address the issue.

"Nothing's been filed at this time, and making public statements on something that has not been filed would be silly," spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said.

Privately, however, a high-ranking official in the office said prosecutors believed that arresting Murray would amount to special treatment.

The official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because the case was ongoing, noted that Murray does not have a criminal record and poses no danger to the public. The source said similarly situated defendants, including police officers accused of crimes, are commonly allowed to turn themselves in.

"This shouldn't be treated differently because it's a celebrity-related case," the official said.

Murray's lawyer says an arrest would be "a waste of time, money and resources."

"It would be plain silly to turn this into more of a show simply so the police can get their photo op," he said.

Murray and his defense team have met with bail bond companies in preparation for the charges, the lawyer said.

"We've had eight months to prepare," he said, referring to the criminal probe of Murray that began in the hours after Jackson's death on June 25.

Murray acknowledged giving propofol, a powerful anesthetic intended for use in operating rooms, to Jackson as a sleep aid on the morning of his death, according to court documents.

The coroner's department ruled the death a homicide and said it was caused by "acute propofol intoxication" in combination with the use of sedatives also administered by Murray.

Involuntary manslaughter, which applies to unlawful killing committed without malice or an intent to kill, carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

harriet.ryan@latimes.com

jack.leonard@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com

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