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DA to charge doctor in Michael Jackson case

Prosecutor will file charges against Dr. Conrad Murray on Monday, officials say. The action comes after negotiations on his surrender bogged down, sources say.

February 06, 2010|By Harriet Ryan, Jack Leonard and Richard Winton
  • TV trucks line up outside the Airport Courthouse on Friday in anticipation of charges being filed in the Michael Jackson case.
TV trucks line up outside the Airport Courthouse on Friday in anticipation… (Mark Boster/Los Angeles…)

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office will file a criminal case against Dr. Conrad Murray on Monday, authorities said, capping an eight-month police investigation into Michael Jackson's death and ending days of intense speculation about when the singer's personal physician would be charged.

Official confirmation of an impending criminal prosecution in the Jackson matter came Friday in a press release in which the district attorney's office took the unusual step of announcing charges in advance. The move seemed designed to temporarily quell a media frenzy that had drawn a hundred reporters and a fleet of television trucks to a courthouse near LAX on Friday morning in anticipation of imminent charges.

The statement from prosecutors said a case pertaining to Jackson's death will be filed at that courthouse, but did not name Murray or specify the charges. Numerous sources with knowledge of the case said the cardiologist will be charged with involuntary manslaughter for administering the combination of sedatives and anesthetic blamed in the singer's June death.

Prosecutors originally planned to file the case Friday, according to law enforcement sources, who said the case was delayed after a dispute arose with Murray's defense team Thursday over the details of his surrender.

Murray, who owns a home in Nevada and works in Houston, has been staying in the Los Angeles area as he awaits charges. Through his attorney, the doctor has said he wants to turn himself in rather than be arrested and has made arrangements for surrender, including gathering his passport and meeting with bail bond companies.

But how bail should be set became a sticking point during negotiations between prosecutors and the defense, according to two law enforcement sources and Murray's lawyer, Ed Chernoff.

Prosecutors wanted Murray to make a formal court appearance in which a judge would evaluate the specific circumstances of the case, set the amount of bail and dictate any restrictions on his movements, according to law enforcement sources who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Murray's lawyer said negotiations broke down because authorities insisted on "a photo op" of the physician in handcuffs.

Chernoff said Murray wanted to turn himself in at a police station and post the $25,000 bail that is the court-set standard for involuntary manslaughter charges. The bond would allow him to walk out of the police station and remain free pending a formal arraignment, Chernoff said.

He said prosecutors asked Murray to agree not to post bail at the police station so he could be taken into custody, transported to a courthouse by police and brought before a judge, the lawyer said. "I told them there is no way that I'm going to let my client sit in jail so you can have your show and parade him into court in handcuffs," Chernoff said. "That's when they pulled the plug."

A district attorney's spokeswoman disputed Chernoff's account, saying prosecutors were never interested in "a photo op" involving Murray. "That's an absolute lie," said spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons. "There was never any consideration of a 'perp walk' or him being brought into a courtroom in handcuffs."

Gibbons said discussions about a defendant's terms of surrender are common.

It's unclear whether the issue was resolved. In a statement, the district attorney's office said information about the arraignment would be released after Murray is charged. Involuntary manslaughter, which refers to an unlawful killing committed without malice, intent to kill or a conscious disregard for human life, carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Murray acknowledged to police that he gave Jackson an intravenous dose of the powerful anesthetic propofol shortly before his death, according to court documents. The drug is intended for use in operating rooms by trained anesthesiologists. Murray told police that the singer had a long history of using the drug to sleep and he was trying to wean Jackson from it the week he died, the documents state.

harriet.ryan@latimes.com

jack.leonard@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com

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