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Michael Jackson manslaughter hearing begins

Dr. Conrad Murray, a physician for the late pop star Michael Jackson, appears at a child support hearing at Clark County Family Court, Monday, Nov. 16, 2009, in Las Vegas. (Isaac Brekken)

January 4, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
As Michael Jackson's manslaughter hearing began Tuesday, details emerged about his doctor's key role in the singer's death.The multi-day hearing will determine if there is enough evidence for Dr. Conrad Murray to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter for the pop star's 2009 death.

The lead prosecutor in the case, Deputy District Attorney David Walgren, told Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor that he has medical experts whose testimonies will show "an extreme deviation of expected standard of care" on Murray's part.

Murray's attorney, Ed Chernoff, declined to give an opening statement.

For Jackson's family, including his mother Katherine, his sister LaToya and brother Jackie who attended the hearing, it appeared to be a difficult day as they heard about their loved one's final hours.

According to prosecutors, Murray admitted that for two straight months prior to the 50-year-old's death, he gave him the powerful anesthetic propofol nearly every night to help the singer sleep. The drug is typically used in hospitals to put patients under for serious surgery, not to treat insomnia.

Choreographer Kenny Ortega, the last person to work with Jackson on his concert tour, testified at the hearing that Jackson seemed unwell and not in condition six days before he died and went home early from rehearsals at Ortega's suggestion.

Ortega said he was called to Jackson's home the next morning, where Murray told him not to try to be Jackson's doctor or psychiatrist. Murray suggested Jackson should not have been sent home because he was physically and emotionally fine, Ortega testified.

Jackson died six days later on June 25. Authorities contend Murray gave him a lethal dose of propofol and other sedatives in the bedroom of his rented mansion.

Jackson's fans who turned out to show their support said they want answers.

"I want to know what everybody else wants to know. What happened? Why did you do it? You weren't supposed to have it there. You're not supposed to be in a house setting. You're supposed to be in a hospital setting," said Lesley Cole of Los Angeles.

Walgren said records show that Murray was on the phone with someone for 11 minutes before he noticed Jackson not breathing and that it would take another 11 minutes before Murray called a security guard. After the guard arrived, Murray allegedly did not direct him to call 911, instead directed him to collect propofol bottles and medical paraphernalia. Walgren said it would be nine more minutes elapse before he asks anyone to call paramedics.

When paramedics finally arrived, Murray allegedly never told them he had given Jackson the drug.

The Houston cardiologist has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges and his attorneys have said he did not give Jackson anything that should have killed him.

The prosecution listed violations against the 57-year-old doctor, including giving propofol without standard staff, failure to call 911 and not maintaining medical records that they say prove he should stand trial for Jackson's death.

Fans say they want Murray held accountable.

"I want Conrad Murray to go to jail, period. It's no longer about human justice. It's about human decency," said April Smith, a Jackson fan from Sun Valley.

If Murray is convicted, he could face up to four years in prison and lose his medical license.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.