Sunday, May 29, 2011

Michael Jackson Doctor's Trial Delayed

Judge pushes start of Conrad Murray's trial back to May.
By Gil Kaufman

Conrad Murray
Photo: AFP/ Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — Though Conrad Murray's lawyers had been pressing for a speedy trial, a judge in the involuntary manslaughter case against Michael Jackson's doctor ruled on Wednesday to delay opening statements in the proceedings until May.

The Associated Press reported that Murray's attorneys consented to the postponement after they discussed the matter with prosecutors and both agreed they could be ready for trial by May 9.

According to a transcript from the closed-door session, though opening statements will not begin for several months, Murray told Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor that he did not want to forfeit his right to a quick trial, but agreed to the delay if screening of prospective jurors begins as scheduled on March 24.

"It is only acceptable to me if this is not strung along over a long period of time," Murray told the justice. "I don't want to lose my constitutional right to speedy trial." Murray — who has pleaded not guilty to the charges — reportedly has been in favor of having the proceedings begin as soon as possible because he is facing financial troubles, but he said he understands that the delay is necessary to allow both sides to prepare for the trial.

Pastor consented because he said he didn't want to lose a jury pool, and believed a month-long delay might let potential jurors shuffle their schedules for the case, which could take up to two months to decide. The judge has reportedly clashed with Murray's defense team in recent weeks, pressing them for answers about why they had not turned over more witness notes and other potential evidence to prosecutors in the run-up to the trial.

Cardiologist Murray was hired to be Jackson's personal physician while the King of Pop prepared for his planned 50-date comeback series of shows at London's O2 arena in the summer of 2009. The doctor told police that he provided the then-50-year-old Jackson with sedatives and the surgical anesthetic propofol in order to combat the singer's chronic insomnia. He said he did so on the morning of June 25, 2009, when Jackson died of what a coroner deemed acute propofol poisoning.

Murray's lawyers reportedly plan to argue that Jackson was already in weak health before he died, that it's unfair to blame propofol for his passing and that, if the anesthetic was to blame, the pop superstar may have given himself the fatal dose by drinking the drug in a panic.

A status hearing in the case has been set for this Wednesday.

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