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Charges in Michael Jackson case remain in doubt amid squabbles [Updated]

February 5, 2010 |  7:08 am

Jackson's doctor could face arrest

Will Michael Jackson's doctor be charged today in the pop singer's death?

That remains an open question this morning after negotiations between prosecutors and attorneys for Dr. Conrad Murray to secure his surrender on involuntary manslaughter charges broke down.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office declined to say whether Murray will be charged today. And there are now reports from Murray's camp that he will show up for court this afternoon -- even if he is not charged.

"We are going to be at the courthouse at 1:30 [p.m.] for his surrender," Miranda Sevcik, spokeswoman for Murray's legal team, told the Associated Press. "We see no reason to perpetuate the arbitrary situation any longer."

Previously, law enforcement sources told The Times that Murray's attorneys have objected to prosecutors' calls for the doctor to make a formal court appearance in which a judge would set the terms of his bail and dictate any restrictions on his movements. Instead, the attorneys want their client to be allowed to post bail at a police station, the sources said.

[Updated at 7:20 a.m.: Murray’s attorney called the charge that he was refusing to make his client available for a public court hearing “bull manure” and said negotiations broke down Thursday night because authorities insisted on “a photo op” of the physician in handcuffs.

Lawyer Ed Chernoff said Murray was prepared to surrender to a police station and post the standard $25,000 bail for an involuntary manslaughter charge. The bond would allow him to remain free pending a formal arraignment, Chernoff said.

But authorities wanted Murray to agree not to post bail at the police station so he could be taken into custody, transported to a courthouse by police and brought before a judge, the lawyer said.

“I told them there is no way that I’m going to let my client sit in jail so you can have your show and parade him into court in handcuffs,” Chernoff said. “That’s when they pulled the plug.”]

The dispute could delay plans to file charges. "It's very unclear," said one of the sources. "The defense attorneys apparently don't want him to go to a public hearing."

Murray is prepared to turn himself in to authorities, hand over his passport and put up bail money, his lawyer said. "We've always made it clear: You tell us where, we'll be there," attorney Ed Chernoff said.

On Thursday, law enforcement agencies squabbled over whether to arrest the doctor or allow him to surrender, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Some in the Los Angeles Police Department, which has spent seven months building a case against the 56-year-old cardiologist, are pushing for him to be placed in handcuffs and taken into custody by officers, a departmental source said. The source said police were concerned that allowing Murray to walk into a police station or courthouse suggested to the public, including potential future jurors, that he was entitled to special treatment and was a "white-collar" case rather than a criminal accused of causing a man's death.

Publicly, the district attorney's office refused to address the issue. "Nothing's been filed at this time, and making public statements on something that has not been filed would be silly," spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said.

Privately, however, a high-ranking official in the office said prosecutors believed that arresting Murray would amount to special treatment.

The official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because the case is ongoing, noted that Murray does not have a criminal record and poses no danger to the public. The source said similarly situated defendants, including police officers accused of crimes, are commonly allowed to turn themselves in.

"This shouldn't be treated differently because it's a celebrity-related case," the official said.

Murray has acknowledged giving propofol, a powerful anesthetic intended for use in operating rooms, to Jackson as a sleep aid on the morning of his death, according to court documents.

The coroner's office ruled the death a homicide and said it was caused by "acute propofol intoxication" in combination with the use of sedatives also administered by Murray.

Involuntary manslaughter, which applies to unlawful killing committed without malice or an intent to kill, carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

-- Harriet Ryan, Jack Leonard and Richard Winton

Read more about Michael Jackson's case on the Homicide Report, including links to The Times complete coverage of his life and death

Photo: Remi Nishimoto, right, of Nippon TV in Japan, sets up her microphone outside the downtown Los Angeles courthouse Wednesday. The district attorney's office could charge Dr. Conrad Murray as early as Friday. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

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