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Negotiations underway for surrender of Michael Jackson's doctor

February 04, 2010|By Harriet Ryan, Jack Leonard and Richard Winton | Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

An attorney for Michael Jackson's doctor said he was in negotiations with a prosecutor Thursday morning about how the physician will surrender to face criminal charges in the pop icon's death.

No case has been filed against Dr. Conrad Murray, but the Los Angeles County district attorney's office is expected to file an involuntary manslaughter charge and potentially other counts against him this week, said numerous sources familiar with the case.

Murray's lead attorney, Ed Chernoff, said he and Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren were discussing arrangements for booking and arraigning the doctor after the case is filed.

"We both share the goal of the efficient administration of this process," Chernoff said.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney's office did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

A sticking point appeared to be whether Murray, who is staying with the mother of his infant son in Santa Monica, will be arrested and placed in handcuffs or permitted to turn himself in at a police station or courthouse.

Los Angeles Police Department officials were pushing for an arrest, according to a departmental source who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The source said police were concerned that allowing Murray to turn himself in suggested to the public -- including future jurors -- that he was entitled to special treatment and was a "white-collar" case rather than an accused criminal.

Murray's lawyer insisted there was no reason for handcuffs or police cars.

"An arrest of Dr. Murray would be a waste of money, time and resources. We've always made it clear: You tell us where; we'll be there. I'm sure something can be arranged," Chernoff said.

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

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

Murray acknowledged giving propofol, a powerful anesthetic intended for use in operating rooms, to Jackson as a sleep aid 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 the doctor.

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

[Updated at 11:45 a.m.: The prosecutors who will try Murray are at odds with the police who built the case against him over whether the physician should be arrested or allowed to surrender, according to a high-ranking official in the district attorney's office.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said prosecutors oppose an arrest because Murray does not have a criminal record and poses no danger to the public.

The official denied that a surrender would represent special treatment for Murray, saying 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.]

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