More than a year after Michael Jackson's death, the pop icon's former personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, was in court Monday (August 23) where a judge finally set a preliminary date of January 4, 2011, in the cardiologist's involuntary-manslaughter trial.
TMZ reported that Murray's legal team won a request to get a fluid sample from Jackson as part of their defense strategy questioning the accuracy of levels of the surgical anesthetic propofol found in Jackson's body. The Los Angeles County Coroner's office determined that Jackson, 50, died as a result of acute propofol intoxication.
Murray has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of involuntary manslaughter and has admitted to giving Jackson propofol, a strong anesthetic usually used during surgery but allegedly employed by chronic insomniac Jackson as a sleep aid. Murray's lawyers have said the physician did not administer any drugs that "should have" caused Jackson's death. The investigation into his death was equally lengthy, lasting more than eight months, after which Los Angeles prosecutors charged that Murray gave the King of Pop a lethal combination of propofol and other painkillers and sedatives in the hours before the singer was found dead in his rented Los Angeles mansion on June 25, 2009. Murray faces up to four years in prison if convicted.
After hearing from both sides in the case at the January court date, the judge, Michael Pastor, will determine if there is enough evidence to mount a full trial.
Jackson's mother and father, Katherine and Joseph, were in court on Monday, according to Radar Online, sitting in the front row as Judge Pastor set the preliminary hearing date. Pastor granted a protective order covering all evidence in the criminal case, meaning it cannot be released to anyone other than the lawyers, paralegals and investigators in the case.
Murray's defense team reportedly asked for access to three fluids collected by the coroner's office, including ones taken from syringes and an IV tube to re-examine test results. Pastor ruled that the coroner's office must preserve the samples, and if defense attorneys and prosecutors cannot agree on the request, he will schedule a hearing on the matter.
After court let out, a group of Jackson supporters gathered and sang an impromptu verse that featured the lines, "Conrad Murray is a cold man," while holding up signs that read "Justice for Michael Jackson" and "Love Unites Us, Peace Drives Us, Judgment Day 4 All."