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Jackson doctor says not guilty

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

Dr. Conrad Murray, accused of giving Jackson a fatal dose of an anesthetic to help him sleep, appeared in court in a gray suit and burgundy tie as Jackson’s father, Joe; mother, Katherine; and siblings LaToya, Jermaine, Tito, Jackie and Randy watched from courtroom seats behind prosecutors.

Neither Murray nor the Jacksons showed much emotion as Murray entered his plea through his attorney Ed Chernoff, but as he emerged from court, Joe Jackson declared, "My son was murdered."

"We need justice," he added before leaving with family members in a fleet of Cadillac Escalades.

Earlier, several people shouted "murderer" 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. Others held signs urging "Justice For Michael."

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

Murray also lived and worked in Las Vegas, and law enforcement authorities conducted searches of his Red Rock Country Club home and local cardiology office.

They also searched a Las Vegas pharmacy where Murray purchased propofol, an anesthetic that killed Jackson.

Superior Court Judge Keith L. Schwartz set bail at $75,000, three times more than the amount people normally face after being charged with involuntary manslaughter. Murray posted it about two hours later and was released.

Chernoff said outside court that Murray plans to return to practicing medicine in Nevada and Texas while he awaits trial. The judge ordered him to return to court April 5 for a preliminary hearing.

"He’ll be back in Vegas this week; he’ll open his medical practice," Chernoff said.

The judge warned Murray he is not to use general anesthesia on anyone while he is free on bail.

"I don’t want you sedating people," he said.

Deputy state Attorney General Trina Bell also told the judge that the state Medical Board is planning to seek the suspension of Murray’s medical license. The action would affect his ability to practice medicine in California.

It appeared authorities were taking extra steps to ensure the arraignment did not become a media circus.

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, especially if the Jackson family continues to take a high-profile role.

Immediately after the hearing, LaToya Jackson issued a statement saying that she believed her brother had been murdered and that others besides Murray were involved in his death.

"I will continue to fight until all of the proper individuals are brought forth and justice is served," she said.

Jackson, 50, hired 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 Murray administered the powerful general anesthetic propofol and two other sedatives to get the chronic insomniac to sleep.

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 Murray administered the anesthetic and other drugs.

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

Known as "milk of amnesia," propofol is only supposed to be administered by an anesthesia professional in a medical setting because it depresses breathing and heart rate while lowering blood pressure.

When prosecutors filed their criminal complaint Monday, the coroner’s office released its autopsy report on Jackson. The document found the singer was in relatively good health and died from acute propofol intoxication.

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