- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Michael Jackson’s doctor is ready to go to trial on a charge of involuntary manslaughter rather than strike a plea deal in the superstar’s death, his lawyers say.

Dr. Conrad Murray was expected at a Tuesday arraignment, where his lawyers say he will plead not guilty. They said he will not seek a plea bargain, and they had no qualms about going to trial in spite of strong prosecution evidence at a preliminary hearing aiming to prove the doctor’s gross negligence killed Jackson.

“We’re going to go to trial,” said defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan. “I think our case is really solid. We were very pleased with the way the evidence went at the preliminary hearing… This should result in an acquittal.”

Others outside the case were not as confident a jury would exonerate Murray.

“If I were advising him, I would be talking to the district attorney to see what they would be willing to accept,” said criminal defense attorney Steve Cron. An offer of probation with community service and temporary suspension of Murray’s medical license would be worth considering if it were proposed, he said.

“I think there’s a good chance he’s going to go down on this,” said Cron. “If they go to trial, they’ve got a lot of explaining to do.”

Attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr., who represented Jackson in his child molestation trial six years ago, said of Murray: “I can’t be objective in this case. While I respect that defense lawyers have to do their job, I firmly believe he’s guilty.”

Legal experts said several defenses are available to Murray. Among them is the suggestion by his lawyers that Jackson, desperate for sleep, self-administered a fatal dose of the powerful, surgical anesthetic propofol while Murray was out of the room. That theory would mean he either injected propofol into an IV line or swallowed the drug, which is meant to be administered intravenously.

Prosecution experts are likely to challenge that scenario. They also could say Murray was negligent in leaving the drug on a night stand where Jackson could reach it.

“They’ve got to explain why Dr. Murray was giving him propofol in the first place, in a setting where it is not normally given,” said Cron, who has been watching the case.

Murray may have to testify in his own defense to provide the answers, Cron said.

“My guess is he will have to explain some of these things and present his persona to the jury as a reasonable, competent doctor,” Cron said.

If convicted, Murray could face a maximum of four years in prison. But his defense is not just an effort to avoid prison. It’s a fight for his professional life.

Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor suspended Murray’s California medical license pending the outcome of the trial. A conviction on a felony could mean Murray could never practice medicine again.

“I think ultimately, it will not go to trial,” said Dana Cole, a defense attorney not involved in Murray’s case. “There’s too much risk.”

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