Michael Jackson's personal physician declared himself "innocent" in the singer's death Tuesday during a Los Angeles County Superior Court appearance in which he also demanded that his trial begin quickly.
Asked how he pleaded to a charge of involuntary manslaughter, the sole count to be decided at the trial now set for March 28, Dr. Conrad Murray paused and then said, "Your honor, I am an innocent man — "
"What's your plea?" Judge Michael Pastor interrupted.
"Therefore, I plead not guilty," Murray said.
Murray's decision to invoke his right to a speedy trial, meaning the case must get underway within 60 business days, surprised many in the court, including the judge. Pastor remarked on its rarity in the busy downtown courthouse where cases often take years to proceed to trial.
A defense lawyer said outside court that Murray's decision was prompted by the looming prospect of losing his remaining medical licenses and ability to earn money. Pastor stripped Murray of his California license two weeks ago at the close of the preliminary hearing, during which prosecution witnesses described the medical care the doctor provided Jackson.