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Updated: February 3, 2010 15:57 IST

Jackson’s doctor meets with legal team

AP
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Pop icon Michael Jackson's personal physician Dr. Conrad Murray
AP Pop icon Michael Jackson's personal physician Dr. Conrad Murray

Michael Jackson’s physician has been strategizing with his team of defence attorneys and is ready to surrender to authorities if prosecutors file charges, the doctor’s attorney said.

Dr. Conrad Murray, who has a practice in Houston, came to Los Angeles last weekend and spent Tuesday afternoon meeting with his newly assembled team of three lawyers. The district attorney’s office has not said if it will file charges, but lead defence attorney Ed Chernoff said Dr. Murray is ready for such a move.

“I haven’t received any phone call from anybody asking for the doctor to surrender,” Mr. Chernoff said. “If we get the call, we’ll be happy to.”

David Walgren, the deputy Los Angeles County district attorney handling the case, declined to comment.

Jackson, 50, hired Dr. Murray to be his personal physician as he prepared for a strenuous series of comeback performances in London. His death on June 25 in Los Angeles came after Dr. Murray, tending to Jackson in the star’s rented mansion, administered the powerful anesthetic propofol and two other sedatives to get the chronic insomniac to sleep, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, which ruled the death a homicide.

Propofol is only supposed to be administered by an anesthesia professional in a medical setting. The patient requires constant monitoring because the drug depresses breathing and heart rate while also lowering blood pressure, a potentially deadly combination.

Dr. Murray, a cardiologist, has maintained from the outset that nothing he gave the singer should have killed him. Administering propofol to Jackson wasn’t illegal, so prosecutors must show Dr. Murray deviated from accepted medical norms when he administered it in a non-medical setting while Jackson already had other sedatives in his system.

A law enforcement official last month told the AP that prosecutors had decided to seek a grand jury indictment on an involuntary manslaughter charge. On Tuesday, a second law enforcement official said prosecutors were sticking with the charge but planned to file a criminal complaint to avoid the appearance of secrecy in the closely watched case.

Both officials requested anonymity because they are not authorized to publicly discuss the case.

A criminal complaint would pave the way for a preliminary hearing in the case, where a judge would publicly hear evidence and decide if it should go to trial.

Such a hearing would provide a valuable glimpse into the strength of the government’s case and could help Dr. Murray determine if he should negotiate with prosecutors for a plea deal, said criminal defence attorney Roger Rosen, who is not a part of the case. “You get a flavour for what you are dealing with,” he said.

Mr. Chernoff recently hired attorneys Joseph Low, who has worked in the media spotlight representing Marines accused of wrongful killings in Iraq, and J. Michael Flanagan, who represented Britney Spears in a hit-and-run case.

Los Angeles Police Department investigators spent months gathering evidence, with detectives talking to numerous medical experts to determine whether Dr. Murray’s behaviour, which included talking on his cell phone and leaving Jackson’s bedside, fell outside the bounds of reasonable medical practice.

To bring a manslaughter charge, prosecutors must show there was a reckless action that created a risk of death or great bodily injury. If a doctor is aware of the risk, there might also be an issue of whether the patient knew that risk and decided to take it.

Dr. Murray was in dire financial shape when he signed on as Jackson’s doctor, owing a total of at least $780,000 in judgments against him and other payments. Mr. Low declined to comment on what financial arrangements the lawyers had made to represent Dr. Murray.

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