Jackson doctor’s case assigned to L.A. judge

Family members and fans attend brief proceeding

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The involuntary manslaughter case against Michael Jackson’s cardiologist was assigned to a trial judge Monday in a brief proceeding that drew fans and family members of the late pop star.

Dr. Conrad Murray, his attorneys and prosecutors assembled before Supervising Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza, who in moments assigned the case to Judge Michael Pastor and sent them to his courtroom.

Pastor scheduled a June 14 court date to take up remaining procedural issues including the setting of a date for a preliminary hearing and Murray’s fight to keep his California medical license.

The state attorney general, representing the state medical board, has moved to revoke Murray’s license pending trial.

Earlier, about 50 Jackson fans waved signs and chanted outside the courthouse.

The fans sang “We Are the World,” wore T-shirts emblazoned with Jackson’s picture and the slogan, “Justice 4 Michael,” and carried placards demanding stronger charges against Murray.

Fans in a courthouse hallway called out “Hi Janet” as Jackson’s sister Janet arrived. The late pop star’s parents, Joe and Katherine, and brother Jermaine also attended.

Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Normally, such a procedural hearing would draw few spectators.

But with Jackson’s death as the backdrop, crowds of fans and media were expected, and Jackson family members have committed to attending all court proceedings against Murray.

Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said the Jackson family notified court officials that up to 15 courtroom seats would be needed.

“It’s basically a housekeeping hearing, but it will be the housekeeping hearing heard around the world,” said Loyola University law professor Laurie Levenson. “There is no detail too minute for the international media.”

Murray’s attorneys contend the license issue is critical to his ability to pay for his defense.

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The doctor has a history of serious financial problems and his attorneys, Ed Chernoff and Joseph Low, said in a recent court filing that the effect of losing his license would be devastating to Murray.

“He is, without fear of overstatement, hanging on by a thread,” the attorneys wrote. “His ability to pay for his own defense depends almost entirely on his ability to continue to treat patients.”

Murray, 57, a cardiologist, has clinics in Las Vegas and Houston and also has a license to practice in California. Should his California license be lifted, his lawyers suggest there would be a “domino effect” with other states moving to do the same.

Already, Nevada authorities have filed a formal complaint against Murray saying he twice failed to mention delinquent child support payments on applications to renew his medical license. Miranda Sevcik, spokeswoman for Murray and Chernoff, says Murray’s legal team hopes to resolve the complaint in a way that allows the doctor to keep his license.

As a condition of his $75,000 bail, Murray has been ordered not to administer any anesthetic.

Jackson was 50 and about to launch a series of comeback shows in London when he died last June after being rushed to a hospital from his Beverly Hills home. Murray, who signed on in May at $150,000 a month to keep Jackson healthy through the comeback tour, told police he had been treating him for insomnia.

The legendary pop star was found to have died from acute intoxication with the hospital anesthetic propofol and other sedatives as a contributing factor.

Chernoff has said that nothing Murray gave the singer should have killed him.

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AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.

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