LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles prosecutors filed a long-anticipated involuntary manslaughter charge against Michael Jackson’s personal physician Monday as the coroner’s office made public a report concluding that the care the singer received in the final hours of his life violated accepted medical standards.
Dr. Conrad Murray, a cardiologist hired to care for Jackson during the pop star’s ambitious comeback attempt last year, pleaded not guilty before a courtroom packed with an international media contingent and members of the entertainer’s famous family. Outside, a handful of fans held signs and wore T-shirts reading “Justice for Michael.”
The 51-page coroner’s office report of Jackson’s June 25 death suggests that to prove manslaughter, prosecutors, who worked closely with the office’s medical investigators and experts in building a criminal case, will focus on Murray’s use of the operating-room anesthetic propofol as a sleep aid.
The coroner’s office previously said Jackson died from “acute propofol intoxication” in combination with the use of sedatives. The report released Monday went further, describing the level of anesthetic as enough to render a patient unconscious for “major surgery.”
Murray told investigators that Jackson, 50, was a chronic insomniac who had depended for years on propofol – a white liquid the singer called “milk” – to sleep, according to police affidavits filed in court. But an anesthesiologist consulted by the coroner’s office wrote in the report that she knew of “NO reports of its use for insomnia relief.”
“The only reports of its use in homes are cases of fatal abuse … suicide, murder and accident,” Dr. Selma Calmes wrote.
Murray’s attorney, Ed Chernoff, predicted that his client would be acquitted.
“If we get the right jury, the right result will occur,” he said.
Sheriff’s deputies whisked Murray into the courthouse through a crush of camera crews and past a small group of protesters, some of whom shouted “murderer” as he passed. Chernoff said his client was shocked by the display. He said the doctor considered Jackson a friend and has been visiting his grave since the pop star’s burial.
“This has been a nightmare for him for many different reasons,” Chernoff said. “One of the reasons is that he lost a friend.”
Brian Oxman, an attorney for the singer’s father, Joe Jackson, said some family members were disappointed that the physician was charged only with involuntary manslaughter.