- Associated Press - Monday, February 28, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The judge handling the involuntary manslaughter case against Michael Jackson’s doctor indicated Monday he might delay the trial in what would be a defeat for defense lawyers anxious to get on with the proceedings.

“I am extremely distressed about the state of this case and whether the defense is prepared for trial and its obligations to Dr. Murray,” Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said.

Prosecutors urged the judge to delay the scheduled March 24 start of jury selection, and Pastor asked them to present case law on the matter Wednesday, when he ordered defendant Conrad Murray to appear in court.

The doctor, who has pleaded not guilty, has been absent from the past few hearings under a waiver that allowed him to continue working at his clinics in Texas and Nevada.

Murray’s medical license to practice in California has been suspended by Pastor. Defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan told the judge the urgency of getting to trial involves Murray’s fear that if it takes too long, Texas and Nevada will lift his medical license as well.

Flanagan also suggested that Murray is running out of money to fund his defense.

“We need to go to trial right away,” he said. “We don’t have the budget that would let us draw this out.”

Flanagan acknowledged, “We are still preparing this case,” but said it was normal for evidence to develop even after the trial has begun.

“We will be ready for trial March 24,” Flanagan said. “We are not ready today.”

Prosecutors objected that they are entitled to receive discovery of defense evidence 30 days before trial starts, a deadline which has already passed. Deputy District Attorney Deborah Brazil said she has received no reports from defense experts or any statements from proposed defense witnesses.

Flanagan angrily complained that the prosecution has not met all of its discovery obligations either.

The judge ordered Brazil and Deputy District Attorney David Walgren to turn over clean digital photos from Jackson’s autopsy as well as all of the surveillance tapes recorded at his Bel Air home on June 25, 2009, the day he died of an overdose of the anesthetic propofol and other sedatives.

Pastor said that unless both sides quickly meet their discovery obligations, he will begin issuing sanctions of $1,500 per lawyer per day. The judge said he may have to start holding daily hearings in order to compel discovery.

Among the experts Flanagan said he expects to call is a leading authority on the use propofol. Flanagan said the witness believes Jackson was addicted to the pain killer Demerol and was withdrawing it at the time of his death, which may have complicated his reactions.

Outside court, Flanagan said prosecutors had 20 months to prepare their case while the defense began developing evidence in the past six weeks after a preliminary hearing.

Flanagan said outside court that he believes Pastor can’t overrule the speedy trial requirement unless the defense is found unprepared on the day of trial. By then, the judge will have called hundreds of prospective jurors to the courthouse and arranged for extra security. He stressed that arranging for such a high-profile trial is time consuming and complicated.

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