LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson’s doctor wanted to seek his day in court Friday by surrendering before being charged in the singer’s death, but prosecutors upstaged the plan by announcing that no case would be filed until next week.
District attorney’s spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons released the plan less than two hours before Dr. Conrad Murray and his attorneys were going to show up at an airport-area courthouse in an effort to force the prosecution’s hand while avoiding having the physician arrested and handcufffed.
Gibbons’ statement did not mention Murray, but said information on charges will be released after the case is filed on Monday.
A news conference that had been scheduled Friday afternoon by Murray’s defense team in lieu of his surrender was canceled an hour before it was to begin at a park near the courthouse.
Murray’s attorneys have said they expect the Texas cardiologist to be charged with involuntary manslaughter for administering drugs to Jackson before his death on June 25.
It was not immediately clear if Murray would return to Houston, where he has a practice, or remain in Los Angeles through the weekend.
Lead defense attorney Ed Chernoff spoke Thursday with prosecutor David Walgren and was told to be at the courthouse at 1:30 p.m. local time Friday, only to have the county sheriff’s department, which handles court security, publicly say hours later that it was called off, defense team spokeswoman Miranda Sevcik said earlier Friday.
“What does it take to surrender in L.A.?” Sevcik said. “I feel like Ed should show up in the courthouse with a big white flag.”
Walgren declined to comment Friday.
The legal gamesmanship over Murray’s surrender followed several days of negotiations in which his lawyers tried to arrange with prosecutors for the doctor to surrender for booking and arraignment.
Those plans were derailed by haggling between prosecutors and law enforcement officials over whether the physician should be arrested or allowed to turn himself in.
“It seems ridiculous to us that it’s been dragging on this long,” Sevcik said. “We’ve been here all week long, for God’s sake. What’s the holdup? To us this is showmanship and we are just done.”
In the seven months since Jackson’s sudden death at 50 while rehearsing for a major comeback concert series, Murray has largely stayed out of view. His lawyers have spoken very little. And prosecutors and investigators have been tightlipped.
Sevcik said prosecutors told Murray on Thursday he’d face one count of involuntary manslaughter.
Murray became the focus of the probe into Jackson’s death shortly after he called 911 on June 25 to report that the singer wasn’t breathing. Murray told police he gave the Jackson a powerful anesthetic and other sedatives that were blamed on his death.
The doctor maintains nothing he gave Jackson should have killed him but sees a charge as inevitable, Sevcik said.
“We know he’s going to be charged with involuntary manslaughter and we are ready with a counter argument,” Sevcik said. “He’s not guilty — that’s our argument.”
Various factors weighed into the desire of the Los Angeles Police Department to arrest Murray, including the possibility he might flee before arraignment, just as O.J. Simpson did, a law enforcement official close to the investigation told The Associated Press.
Top brass at the LAPD, which spent the past seven months investigating Murray, were unhappy with the idea of him surrendering because it could appear Murray was being given special treatment, according to the official who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
The official said the district attorney’s office opposed an early plan for detectives to make the arrest Friday morning.