Michael Jackson’s doctor was today charged with involuntary manslaughter in the pop singer’s death.
Prosecutors announced the charge against Dr Conrad Murray, a Houston cardiologist who was with Jackson when he died on June 25. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted.
Murray’s attorney Ed Chernoff said Murray will plead not guilty.
Jackson hired Murray to be his personal physician as he prepared for a strenuous series of comeback performances in London.
Officials say the singer died in Los Angeles after Murray administered the powerful general anaesthetic propofol and two other sedatives to get the chronic insomniac to sleep.
Murray is accused of acting ``unlawfully and without malice'' in bringing about Jackson's death, according to a complaint filed by prosecutors.
The complaint said Murray acted “without the caution and circumspection required” when he administered a powerful sedative to Jackson in an effort to help him sleep.
Chernoff said his client planned to surrender to authorities later today.
“We’ll make bail, we’ll plead not guilty and we’ll fight like hell,” Chernoff said before the charge was filed.
Los Angeles investigators were methodical in building a case against Murray, wary of repeating missteps that have plagued some other high-profile celebrity cases, most notably O.J. Simpson and actor Robert Blake, both of whom were acquitted of murder.
After reviewing toxicology findings, the coroner ruled Jackson’s death at the age 50 a homicide caused by acute intoxication of the powerful anaesthetic propofol, with other sedatives a contributing factor.
Propofol is only supposed to be administered by an anaesthesia professional in a medical setting, because it depresses breathing and heart rate while lowering blood pressure.
Murray appears to have obtained the drug legally and its use is not in itself a crime. To show the doctor was negligent in his care, detectives spoke to more than 10 medical experts to see if his behaviour fell outside the bounds of reasonable medical practice.
According to court documents, Murray told police he administered propofol just before 11am then stepped out of the room to go to the bathroom.
There is some dispute about what happened next. According to court filings, Murray told police that upon his return from the bathroom, he saw Jackson was not breathing and began trying to revive him.
But an ambulance was not called until 12.21pm and Murray spent much of the intervening time making non-emergency phone calls, police say. The nature of the calls, which lasted 47 minutes, is not known.
Murray’s lawyer has said investigators got confused about what Murray had told them, and that the doctor found his patient unresponsive around noon.
The investigation included several agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department, the district attorney’s office and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
Many witnesses have been interviewed by police, including those who were present during Jackson’s last days, those who worked with him in preparation for his series of comeback concerts, “This Is It,” and members of his personal entourage, including his security guard and personal assistant.
Members of Jackson's family later arrived at the Los Angeles court house where prosecutors had announced they had charged Murray.
Jackson’s father Joe said he was “looking for justice”.
Mr Jackson and his wife Katherine arrived at the court house adjacent to Los Angeles International Airport around noon. Also there were the pop star’s brother Jermaine and several other family members.