The circus that swirled around Michael Jackson when he was alive rolled on Friday as the doctor expecting to be accused of involuntary manslaughter in his death planned to stage a surrender at a courthouse but called it off after prosecutors announced charges will be filed next week.
Instead of the promised appearance by Dr. Conrad Murray and his lawyers, a crowd of reporters and photographers gathered outside a branch courthouse only got a drenching from a rainstorm.
Murray, working as Jackson’s personal physician during the singer’s preparation for comeback concerts, has been under investigation since the 50-year-old pop star died June 25 after being administered the hospital-strength anesthetic propofol and sedatives at his rented mansion to help him sleep.
It’s not clear what would have happened had the cardiologist shown up without a case being filed.
District attorney’s spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said the events had no bearing on when the case would be filed. She released a terse statement saying prosecutors will be filing a case involving Jackson’s death on Monday, but it did not name Murray or specify the charges.
“The main thing is there’s some paperwork that needs to be done. We’re doing it and (the case) will be filed on Monday,” Mr. Gibbons said.
The doctor’s legal team has said Murray will be charged with involuntary manslaughter.
“We’ll make bail, we’ll plead not guilty and we’ll fight like hell,” said lead defence attorney Ed Chernoff.
The strange chain of events - which at one point saw reporters scramble from the courthouse to nearby recreational grounds called Polliwog Park for a news conference that never happened - fueled intense speculation about what was going on behind the scenes.
The developments occurred against a background of reports that police wanted to arrest and handcuff Murray, but that his attorneys were negotiating with the prosecution to avoid that.
Mr. Chernoff said he spoke with prosecutors Thursday about how Murray should be taken to court on Friday. Discussions broke down after the district attorney’s office insisted Murray turn himself in at a police station, but not post bail and agree to be taken to court by police while in handcuffs.
A defence spokeswoman also earlier had said the prosecution had told Murray and his lawyers to be at court Friday afternoon.
Mr. Gibbons said that was “an absolute lie.” “We made no deal with them,” Mr. Gibbons said.
Mr. Gibbons also said the district attorney’s office and the Los Angeles Police Department were not at odds.
A law enforcement official close to the case has told The Associated Press that police wanted to arrest Murray at a home where he was staying and take him to a police station for booking. Top brass at the Los Angeles Police Department were unhappy with a surrender because it could appear Murray was being given special treatment, according to the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
Various factors weighed in the desire of the LAPD to arrest Murray, including the possibility he might flee before arraignment, the law enforcement official said.
Jackson fans flooded phone lines at the district attorney’s office and at the LAPD’s robbery-homicide unit demanding that Murray be brought to court in handcuffs.
“When Michael Jackson was arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, he was handcuffed and publicly humiliated,” said Samantha DeGossen, a fan who organized the protest via Internet sites. “We’re outraged that Dr. Murray is not being subjected to the same treatment.”
Jackson was tried and acquitted on child molestation charges in Santa Maria, California, in 2005. He flew to Santa Maria on a private plane and surrendered to law enforcement authorities who handcuffed him and drove him to a jail to be fingerprinted and photographed.
Ms. DeGossen said a group of fans plans to be on hand Monday to protest outside the courthouse if Murray is allowed to surrender on his own.
“All we want is justice for Michael Jackson,” she said.
Murray became the focus of the probe into Jackson’s death shortly after an emergency call from Jackson’s home last summer reported that the singer wasn’t breathing despite efforts by the doctor to perform CPR. Murray told police he gave Jackson a powerful anaesthetic and other sedatives that an autopsy blamed for his death.
The doctor maintains nothing he gave Jackson should have killed him.
New York-based attorney William Moran, who has represented high-profile clients, said it is not unusual for there to be friction between police and prosecutors in cases in the media limelight. Any attorney would push back against the prospect of a client being photographed in police custody.
“If you are either a patient of the doctor or considering becoming a patient of the doctor, it’s hard to get past the image of your doctor in handcuffs,” Moran said, adding that such an image could impact potential jurors.