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Jackson doctor will face trial on involuntary manslaughter charge

By Alan Duke, CNN
Dr. Conrad Murray, right (with defense attorney John Michael Flanagan), said Michael Jackson begged for propofol.
Dr. Conrad Murray, right (with defense attorney John Michael Flanagan), said Michael Jackson begged for propofol.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Defense attorneys comment on hearing
  • Judge bars Dr. Conrad Murray from using his California medical license
  • A prosecution expert witness testifies he made a math mistake
  • The expert says Murray is still responsible for leaving drugs around an addict

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Michael Jackson's doctor will face trial on an involuntary manslaughter charge in the death of the pop superstar, a Los Angeles judge ruled Tuesday.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor also prohibited Dr. Conrad Murray from using his California medical license until the trial is completed. The state medical board requested that be made a provision of his bail.

While Jackson was Murray's only and last California patient, Murray's lawyer argued a suspension in one state would prompt Texas and Nevada, where he sees patients, to also take action.

Pastor denied the prosecution's request to increase Murray's bail, which is now set at $75,000.

"Michael is not with us today because of an utterly inept, incompetent, reckless doctor, the defendant Conrad Murray," Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney David Walgren said in his final arguments.

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Several Jackson's family members sat through the six-day preliminary hearing for Murray, but they would not talk about the ruling as they left court Tuesday.

The lawyer for Michael Jackson's estate issued a statement on behalf of the co-executors.

"The judge's ruling ordering Dr. Murray to stand trial for the death of Michael Jackson is perfectly appropriate given the testimony in this case," Howard Weitzman said.

Murray's lawyers appeared satisfied with the results of the preliminary hearing because of testimony they got from prosecution witnesses that might help raise reasonable doubt about Murray's guilt at trial.

"I think the prosecution is going to change their tactics in this case," defense lawyer J. Michael Flanagan said after court. "It's not the same as what they gave in opening statements."

Earlier Tuesday, the prosecution's expert witness in the case admitted he made a math mistake and that the recalculation supports the defense theory that Michael Jackson may have given himself the fatal dose of propofol.

Propofol is a surgical anesthetic that the Los Angeles coroner ruled killed Jackson in combination with several sedatives found in his blood.

Dr. Richard Ruffalo, an anesthesiologist hired by the prosecution, was the last witness to take the stand.

"I actually made a mistake on that," Ruffalo said during cross-examination, referring to his calculation of the levels of propofol in Jackson's stomach fluid.

The admission drew an audible gasp from Jackson family members sitting in court.

Murray's lawyers suggest a frustrated and sleepless Jackson may have poured the surgical anesthetic propofol into his juice bottle while the doctor was out of his bedroom.

"Now it doesn't make sense unless he ingested it orally in a huge amount," Ruffalo testified.

But he said Murray would still be at fault, because he left dangerous drugs near a patient who was addicted.

"It's like leaving a syringe next to a heroin addict," Ruffalo said. "If he's not getting what he wants, when you leave the room he might reach for it himself."

"Either way, it doesn't matter," he testified. "He abandoned his patient and didn't resuscitate appropriately."

Murray should have anticipated that Jackson, who had previously asked to inject himself, might do this, Ruffalo said.

"He gets upset if he doesn't get his milk," he said, referring to Jackson's habit of referring to propofol as his "milk."

The pop star's sister La Toya Jackson was clearly upset by hearing a prosecution witness vilify her brother as an addict.

The pathologist who conducted Jackson's autopsy acknowledged earlier Tuesday it was possible, although improbable, that Jackson gave himself the fatal dose of the propofol.

The defense planted the seed Monday for its theory that Jackson may have given himself the fatal dose. A doctor said in a police interview two days after the death that a sleepless Jackson begged Murray for propofol the day he died, a police detective testified.

While Murray told police he eventually gave Jackson propofol, the defense lawyer suggested that it could be that a frustrated Jackson poured the fatal dosage into his juice and drank it.

Jackson had depended on propofol to put him to sleep almost every night in the previous weeks as he was preparing for his "This Is It" comeback concerts, but Murray began to wean him off the surgical anesthetic two nights earlier, Murray told police.

Los Angeles Police Detective Orlando Martinez testified at the preliminary hearing about what the doctor told him two days after Jackson's death.

Several doses of two sedatives Murray used in place of propofol still hadn't put Jackson to sleep after several hours on the morning of June 25, 2009, Murray said, according to Martinez.

"Mr. Jackson began to complain that he couldn't sleep and that he would have to cancel his rehearsal and cancel his shows if he couldn't get any sleep since he couldn't perform," Martinez quoted Murray as saying.

A civil lawsuit filed last year by Jackson's mother against the company producing the concerts alleged that he had been warned a week earlier "that if Jackson missed any further rehearsals, they were going to 'pull the plug' on the show."

Murray said he eventually gave in to the pressure from his patient and administered a dose of propofol about 10 a.m., the detective testified. Jackson finally fell asleep, according to Murray's account.

While his patient slept, Murray sent an e-mail to a British insurance agent assuring him that Jackson was in good health, according to another witness Monday.