Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, was charged with involuntary manslaughter
in Los Angeles yesterday in relation to the singer's death last year from a cocktail of drugs.
Murray, aged 57, pleaded
not guilty just hours after being charged, and was released on bail of $75,000 (£48,000), and is due to reappear before the court on 5 April. The charge carries a jail term of four years.
The doctor has been under investigation
almost since the singer's body was found at his home in Los Angeles in June last year.
Some Jackson fans shouted "murderer" as Murray entered the courthouse
The doctor was appointed by Jackson appointed the doctor in May on a promise
of $150,000 a month to help the singer through a series of comeback shows in London. Murray prescribed drugs to help the singer sleep, but insists there was nothing illegal in this.
The single charge against him claims he administered the powerful general anaesthetic
propofol and two other sedatives "without due caution and circumspection" and "did unlawfully, and without malice, kill Michael Joseph Jackson".
Murray flew from his home in Houston to Los Angeles last week for negotiations between prosecutors and his lawyers on his surrender.
A coroner's report in August said Jackson had died from a cocktail of drugs, including propofol, which Murray has admitted administering. Propofol is often used as an anaesthetic in surgery, but was used on Jackson to help him sleep. The doctor administered the drug on the morning Jackson died, and then left the room. On his return, the singer had died.
The case will centre in the main on the use of propofol to help Jackson sleep, but also how long Murray stayed by his side immediately afterwards, while the drug took effect. Murray said he had left Jackson for two minutes to go to the bathroom.
Legal specialists said it could be a complicated and protracted case, with medical experts called by both sides to discuss the ethics of administering propofol.
Jackson's parents, Kathryn and Joe, were in court yesterday, along with his siblings LaToya, Jermaine, Tito, Jackie and Randy. Brian Oxman, Joe Jackson's lawyer, said some family members were disappointed that the doctor was charged only with involuntary manslaughter.
The Los Angeles district attorney's office said the deputy district attorney
, David Walgreen, who is handling the attempt to extradite Roman Polanski in a child-sex case, will try the case. The district attorney's office credited the Los Angeles police and coroner's office for building the case against Murray. "Both agencies worked diligently and exhaustively to collect the evidence leading to the filing of the case," a statement said.
Bottles of propofol were in Murray's medicine bag and on the bedside table of Jackson's home.
Murray was employed by Jackson as he prepared for a series of 50 concerts aimed at reviving his career. The singer's career had been in steady decline after a series of allegations of child molestation that led to his arrest in 2003.
Jackson left an estate worth hundreds of millions and his death saw a new burst in sales of the star's music. A documentary film, Michael Jackson's This Is It, compiled from footage from rehearsals, earned nearly $260m.