Cardiologist Dr. Conrad Murray, the only person charged in the June 2009 death of Michael Jackson, will be arraigned on Tuesday morning (January 25) on an involuntary manslaughter charge. Murray, who was serving as the 50-year-old pop icon's personal physician at the time, is expected to plead not guilty in the case.
According to CNN, the hearing in front of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor, is only slated to last a few minutes. While Murray has the right to demand a trial within 60 days, it is not expected that a date will be set for one on Tuesday.
After more than a week of testimony, Pastor ruled during a preliminary hearing in early January that there was enough evidence to bring Murray's case to trial. In the meantime, Murray remains free on $75,000 bond, but Pastor blocked the doctor from using his California medical license until the trial is completed.
"Michael is not with us today because of an utterly inept, incompetent, reckless doctor — the defendant Conrad Murray," Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney David Walgren said in his final arguments in the preliminary hearing, where a series of witnesses recounted Murray's actions during the minutes and hours before and after Jackson's death. The King of Pop died as a result of what the Los Angeles County coroner's office called acute propofol poisoning, a reference to a powerful surgical anesthetic that the singer reportedly requested as a sleep aid to combat chronic insomnia.
While prosecutors appear to be building a case that Murray acted recklessly in attending to Jackson in the singer's final hours, CNN reported that the doctor's lawyers appeared satisfied with the results of the preliminary hearing thanks to some testimony they got from prosecution witnesses that might help raise some reasonable doubt about their client's guilt at trial.
"I think the prosecution is going to change their tactics in this case," defense lawyer J. Michael Flanagan said after the preliminary hearing. "It's not the same as what they gave in opening statements." The defense reportedly is set to argue that it was Jackson himself who administered the final, fatal dose of propofol after waking in a panic from a fitful night of sleep. One of the prosecution's expert witnesses in the case admitted under cross-examination that he made a math mistake and that the recalculation supports the defense theory that Jackson may have given himself the dose of propofol that killed him.
CNN reported that Dr. Richard Ruffalo, an anesthesiologist hired by the prosecution, was the last witness to take the stand and his admission about making a mistake on the calculation of the level of propofol in Jackson's stomach fluid reportedly elicited gasps from the members of Jackson's family who were sitting in the hearing room.
Murray's lawyers have suggested that a frustrated Jackson may have poured the anesthetic — which is administered intravenously — into his juice bottle while the doctor was out of his bedroom. "Now it doesn't make sense unless he ingested it orally in a huge amount," Ruffalo testified. The anesthesiologist added that Murray could still be at fault for leaving dangerous drugs near a patient who was allegedly addicted to sedatives and sleep aids.
"It's like leaving a syringe next to a heroin addict," Ruffalo stated. "If he's not getting what he wants, when you leave the room he might reach for it himself ... Either way, it doesn't matter. He abandoned his patient and didn't resuscitate appropriately." Ruffalo said Murray should have anticipated that Jackson, who had previously asked to inject himself with the drug, might potentially administer it to himself. "He gets upset if he doesn't get his milk," he said, explaining that Jackson often referred to propofol as his "milk."
In addition, the pathologist who conducted Jackson's autopsy acknowledged it was possible, though improbable, that the singer gave himself the fatal propofol dose. Speaking to police two days after Jackson's death, Murray told investigators that a sleepless Jackson had begged him for more propofol on the day he died. The King of Pop was in the midst of a grueling series of rehearsals for his planned "This Is It" comeback shows at London's O2 Arena at the time of his death.
A civil lawsuit filed last year by Jackson's mother against the producer of the concerts, AEG Live, alleged that the company had warned the entertainer several weeks before he died that if he missed any more rehearsals they were going to "pull the plug" on the gigs, which the cash-strapped Jackson was depending on to revive his stalled career.