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Jackson doctor goes to manslaughter trial today

Conrad Murray, the late Michael Jackson's personal physician, sits in court during preliminary hearings at the Los Angeles Superior Court Airport Branch Courthouse this January (REUTERS)


Michael Jackson's personal doctor is to be arraigned Tuesday on involuntary manslaughter charges for allegedly killing the pop icon with an overdose of powerful sedatives.

Conrad Murray, who claims he was just treating the singer for insomnia when he died in June 2009, is to stand trial after preliminary hearings earlier this month found enough evidence against him.

Murray had his license to practice medicine in California suspended after six days of pre-trial hearings which included evidence he tried to cover up having given Jackson an overdose of the drug propofol.

On Tuesday he will appear at the Los Angeles Superior Court to be formally notified of the charges against him, and in theory to enter a plea. He has denied the charges.

Jackson's death shocked the entertainment world and triggered intense debate over the performer's health in the run-up to London concerts, known as the "This is It" tour.

Murray could face up to four years in jail and permanently lose his doctor's license if he is convicted.

His defense team has suggested that Jackson could have effectively killed himself on June 25, 2009, by administering an extra dose of propofol while Murray was out of the room.

Prosecutors allege that Murray, 57, "abandoned his patient" after administering the propofol some time between 10:40 am and 11:00 am to help Jackson sleep, and then tried to cover it up after the singer's death.

On the last day of pre-trial hearings a forensic expert testified that Jackson's death was a homicide, saying the singer was in generally good health on the day when he died at his Los Angeles mansion.

Christopher Rogers, head of forensic medicine for the Los Angeles County coroner's office, said the star died of acute intoxication with propofol, which is usually used as an anesthetic in hospital settings.

He said he would describe Jackson's death as a homicide even if, as claimed by Murray, the singer had himself administered an extra dose of propofol while the doctor was out of the room.

"Based on the quality of the medical care, I would still call this a homicide, even if the doctor did not provide the propofol to Mr Jackson," he said during the second week of the pre-trial hearings.

During the preliminary hearings the court heard from a series of witnesses who testified that Murray delayed calling 911, tried to conceal what drugs he had administered, and did not know how to carry out emergency resuscitation.

Paramedic Martin Blount said that when he arrived Jackson seemed to have been dead for at least 20 minutes, despite Murray's claim that he had stopped breathing a minute before they were called.

Investigator Elissa Fleak said she found 12 vials of propofol in Jackson's house after he died, while a pharmacist testified that he supplied 255 vials of the drug to Murray in the two months before the death.

A detective who interviewed Murray two days after Jackson's death said the doctor admitted having administered a 25-milligram propofol dose and then monitored the singer for a while after he fell asleep at 11 am.

Murray said he then went out to the bathroom for two minutes, and was shocked when he returned to find Jackson not breathing, said detective Orlando Martinez.

"I remember Dr. Murray saying he believed it had just happened because he was only gone for a few minutes," said Martinez.

Various members of Jackson's family attended the pre-trial hearings, and are expected to turn up for Tuesday's formal arraignment.