Michael Jackson's personal physician pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter yesterday, setting the stage for a sensational celebrity courtroom drama as prosecutors attempt to prove Dr. Conrad Murray caused the pop star's death.
About two hours after prosecutors filed the single felony count in Los Angeles, the 6-foot-5 Murray arrived in court in a gray suit to enter his plea. As he did, several members of Jackson's family looked on, The Associated Press reports.
Superior Court Judge Keith L. Schwartz set bail at $75,000, three times more than most people charged with involuntary manslaughter face. Murray posted bail a few hours later.
Prosecutors had been seeking $300,000 bail for Murray, who was taken into custody by sheriff's deputies but not handcuffed.
According to a five-page criminal complaint, Murray "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 Murray administered a powerful general anesthetic and other drugs to help Jackson rest.
As Murray walked past a crowd of hundreds of reporters and Jackson fans on his way to a courthouse adjacent to Los Angeles International Airport, several people shouted "murderer."
Inside the courtroom, Jackson's father, Joe; mother, Katherine; and siblings LaToya, Jermaine, Tito, Jackie and Randy sat behind prosecutors as Murray entered his plea. He could face up to 4 years in prison if convicted.
"Looking for justice," was all Jackson's father said as he walked past a crowd of reporters and into the courthouse.
He and his family members had arrived in a fleet of Cadillac Escalades soon after prosecutors announced yesterday they had brought the manslaughter charge.
The judge told Murray that he may travel the country freely but may not leave the United States. He must also surrender his passport.
However, state officials said they planned to ask that the court suspend his medical license while he is free on bail.