US criminal court case opens against Michael Jackson's doctor

US criminal court case opens against Michael Jackson's doctor

Preliminary hearings began Tuesday in the involuntary manslaughter case against the doctor who is alleged to have given Michael Jackson the dose of hospital anesthetic that killed the king of pop in 2009, dpa reported.

Dr Conrad Murray, a 57-year-old cardiologist, has pleaded not guilty in the case, with his lawyers likely to claim that someone else - possibly Jackson himself - injected the fatal dose.

Jackson died on June 25, 2009, just as he was about to embark on a sold-out comeback tour. He was 50. Coroners found that he died from an overdose of propofol, a hospital anesthetic that the chronic insomniac was using as a sleep aid. Murray was his personal physician who was being paid 150,000 dollars a month by Jackson's concert promoters to look after the frail pop star.

Some 30 witnesses are expected to take the stand at the preliminary hearing in which a judge will decide whether prosecutors can demonstrate the probable cause needed to bring the case to a full trial.

The preliminary hearing was taking place at the Los Angeles Superior Court, and members of Jackson's family including his mother Katherine and siblings La Toya and Jermaine Jackson were seen entering the court building. The hearing is expected to reveal for the first time the major details of the legal strategies to be used by the prosecution and defence.

Legal analysts said that because the burden of proof in such hearings is much lower than in regular trials, it was highly probable that the judge would give the go-ahead for a full trial to begin later this year.

Involuntary manslaughter refers to a killing done without malice, where the accused fails to act with due caution. If Murray is eventually found guilty, he faces a maximum of four years in jail.

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