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Murray pleads not guilty in Jackson's death

January 25, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Michael Jackson's personal physician Dr. Conrad Murray pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the pop star's death.Members of Jackson's family were in court for the arraignment. They watched from mere feet away as Murray maintained his innocence.

"Your honor, I am an innocent man. I therefore plead not guilty," said Murray.

A jury trial is set to begin within 60 days, and both the prosecution and the defense say they are eager to proceed.

Defense attorneys for Dr. Conrad Murray say they fully expect an acquittal at the end of the trial and also that the cardiologist will not accept any sort of plea deal.

"The defense fully intends to be ready for that trial. For his part, Dr. Murray is looking forward to the opportunity to finally tell his side of the story," said defense attorney Ed Chernoff.

"I think the prosecution will be able to produce evidence that will fully support the charge against Dr. Murray," said district attorney spokesperson Sandy Gibbons.

When asked if his client is worried about getting a fair trial, the defense said, not at all.

"Dr. Murray has absolute faith in the jury system and in people in general," said Chernoff.

With worldwide attention hovering over this trial, the judge is considering allowing cameras in the courtroom in what could be an eight-week trial.

Both legal teams were scheduled to meet again Feb. 7 to discuss the possibility of a televised trial.

Opening statements are slated for March 28.

In the six-day preliminary hearing that led to the case going to trial, 22 witnesses testified including household staff as well as paramedics who responded to Jackson's home on June 25, 2009.

A coroner testified that Jackson, 50, died of a propofol overdose in combination with other drugs. His death was classified as a homicide. Propofol is a powerful anesthetic used during surgical procedures.

Testimony states that Murray waited as long as an hour to call 911 after realizing Jackson had stopped breathing. When paramedics arrived, they said Murray did not tell them Jackson had been given propofol.

Also, prosecutors presented evidence in the form of phone records, e-mails and a transcript of Murray's nearly three-hour interview with police - all aiming to prove that the doctor's gross negligence killed Jackson.

"I think our case is really solid. We were very pleased with the way the evidence went at the preliminary hearing," said defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan.

The singer's mother, Katherine Jackson spoke out on "Good Morning America" about being in court for the pending trial and how tough the entire ordeal has been for her and her family.

"It's been a difficult time for me ever since my son passed, and when I'm in that courtroom, I can't stand to look at that man. I go because I love my son and I just feel I have to be there," she said.

If convicted, Murray could face a maximum of four years in prison. But his defense is not just an effort to avoid prison; it's a fight for his professional life.

Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor suspended his California medical license pending the outcome of the trial. A conviction on a felony could mean that Murray could never practice medicine again.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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