LOS ANGELES – Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician who was demonized by Michael Jackson’s family and fans, was ordered Tuesday to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter after court testimony showed he administered a powerful anesthetic and other sedatives then left the pop star alone.
The ruling set the stage for what could be the final chapter in the Jackson saga – a high-profile trial that will examine all aspects of the star’s death and try to finally place responsibility for his demise at the age of 50.
Witnesses at the six-day preliminary hearing filled a number of gaps in the story of Jackson’s final hours, with accounts of his actions and the sad plight of two of his children watching briefly as their father lay dying.
Other witnesses recounted Murray’s claim that he delayed calling 911 for perhaps more than an hour while he tried to revive the singer. A security guard indicated that Murray seemed to be rushing to hide evidence before paramedics arrived.
Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said the hearing included sufficient evidence to support a possible finding of guilt at trial. Murray’s defense attorney Ed Chernoff and prosecutors declined comment on the ruling.
Jackson’s famous family members were in court and welcomed the development.
“I’m happy so far,” LaToya Jackson said while walking to her car. Randy Jackson thanked prosecutors while flashing a peace sign outside the courtroom.
Murray, 57, has pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys have said he did not give Jackson anything that should have killed him. Murray could face up to four years in prison if convicted.
Compounding Murray’s losses in court, the judge also granted a request by the California Medical Board to suspend his license to practice medicine in California. Murray currently has offices in Nevada and Texas, but the judge ordered him to notify authorities in those states of his suspension.
Witnesses at the preliminary hearing said Murray admitted giving Jackson the powerful anesthetic propofol and other sedatives then leaving him alone in his bedroom only to return and find him not breathing.
Murray’s lawyers raised the possibility that Jackson, desperate for sleep, had self-administered the final dose of propofol, causing his own death.
Prosecutors concluded their case with testimony from two doctors who said Murray acted outside the standard of medical care when he administered the propofol and failed to provide proper care.
Both witnesses said that even if Jackson had self-administered the final dose of the drug, his death would be a homicide because of Murray’s actions.
Pastor set Murray’s next hearing for Jan. 25 when he will set a trial date.