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Updated: February 9, 2010 11:31 IST

Michael Jackson’s doctor charged with ‘involuntary manslaughter’

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Dr. Conrad Murray
Dr. Conrad Murray

Michael Jackson’s doctor pleaded not guilty on Monday to involuntary manslaughter in the death of the pop star at a brief hearing that had all the trappings of another sensational celebrity courtroom drama.

Dr. Conrad Murray appeared in court in a gray suit as Jackson’s father Joe, mother Katherine, and siblings LaToya, Jermaine, Tito, Jackie and Randy watched from courtroom seats behind prosecutors.

Neither Dr. Murray nor the Jacksons showed much emotion as Dr. Murray entered his plea through his attorney Ed Chernoff.

“We need justice,” Joe Jackson said outside court.

Earlier, several people shouted “murderer” as Dr. Murray walked past a crowd of hundreds of reporters and Jackson fans on his way to a courthouse adjacent to Los Angeles International Airport.

Dr. Murray, 56, a Houston cardiologist who was with Jackson when he died June 25, entered his plea just hours after he was charged.

Superior Court Judge Keith L. Schwartz set bail at $75,000, three times more than the amount most people face after being charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutors had been seeking $300,000 bail for Dr. Murray, who was taken into custody by deputies but not handcuffed in public. He was expected to be released later in the day.

The judge told Dr. Murray he could travel throughout the United States after posting bail but must surrender his passport and not leave the country.

Lines were formed to gain admission to the courtroom, and the Jackson family was escorted in separately and seated before anyone else arrived.

Despite the precautions, the upcoming proceedings promise to be the focus of widespread attention.

Jackson, 50, hired Dr. Murray in May to be his personal physician as he prepared for a strenuous series of comeback performances.

Officials said the singer died in Los Angeles after Dr. Murray administered the powerful general anesthetic propofol and two other sedatives to get the chronic insomniac to sleep.

Dr. Murray is accused of the single felony count in a five-page complaint that said he “did unlawfully, and without malice, kill Michael Joseph Jackson” by acting “without due caution and circumspection.”

The complaint contains no details on Jackson’s death, but authorities have said the singer died after Dr. Murray administered the anesthetic and other drugs. Dr. Murray has said he did nothing that should have caused Jackson to die.

If convicted, the doctor could face up to four years in prison.

“We’ll make bail, we’ll plead not guilty and we’ll fight like hell,” Mr. Chernoff said before the charge was filed.

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