Physician charged in Jackson death will keep California medical license for now

A doctor charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly administering a lethal dose of a powerful anesthetic to pop icon Michael Jackson will keep his California medical license for now, a Los Angeles judge ruled Monday.

The ruling was a victory for Dr. Conrad Murray, whose lawyers argued that he was financially “hanging on by a thread” and would be unable to adequately defend himself in the criminal case if he lost his income from practicing medicine.

Although his attorneys said Murray no longer treats patients in California, they argued in court documents that the states of Texas and Nevada, where he still does practice, would probably seek their own suspensions if a court ordered his license suspended in California.

The Medical Board of California asked Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael E. Pastor to prohibit Murray from practicing medicine during the course of the criminal case as part of conditions that allow him to remain free on bail.

Supervising Deputy Atty. Gen. Trina L. Saunders argued that Murray’s actions in treating Jackson were so egregious that the medical board had “a right and an obligation to protect the public” by making the request.

But Pastor noted that another judge at Murray’s arraignment in February had already considered what restrictions to place on the physician as part of his bail terms and had ordered him not to administer heavy sedatives or anesthetics.

Pastor said the law did not allow him to alter Murray’s bail terms unless there was a change in circumstances. The judge said nothing had changed since the arraignment.

Murray, a cardiologist hired to care for Jackson during the pop star’s ambitious comeback attempt last year, is accused of giving the singer a lethal amount of the operating-room anesthetic propofol as well as other heavy sedatives.

Prosecutors allege that Murray’s actions at the singer’s Holmby Hills mansion were grossly negligent and directly caused Jackson’s June 25 death. Murray, who has pleaded not guilty, told investigators that Jackson was a chronic insomniac who had depended for years on propofol to sleep, according to police affidavits filed in court.

The judge left open the possibility of reconsidering Murray’s bail — including whether the doctor could practice medicine — after he hears testimony at a later preliminary hearing. Pastor also said his ruling did not prevent the medical board from seeking to suspend Murray’s license at an administrative proceeding.

Murray, wearing a dark suit and yellow tie, sat silently during most of the hearing in a downtown L.A. courtroom packed with reporters and Jackson fans. He spoke only to waive his right to a speedy preliminary hearing.

Also in the audience were members of the Jackson family, including the singer’s mother and father.