Michael Jackson’s doctor pleaded not guilty Monday to involuntary manslaughter in the death of the pop star at a brief hearing that had all the trappings of another sensational celebrity courtroom drama.
Dr. Conrad Murray, accused of giving Jackson a fatal dose of an anesthetic to help him sleep, appeared in court in a gray suit and burgundy tie as Jackson’s father Joe, mother Katherine, and siblings LaToya, Jermaine, Tito, Jackie and Randy watched from courtroom seats behind prosecutors.
Neither Murray nor the Jacksons showed much emotion as the six-foot-five Murray entered his plea through his attorney Ed Chernoff, but as he emerged from court, Joe Jackson declared, “My son was murdered.”
“We need justice,” he added before leaving with family members in a fleet of Cadillac Escalades.
On Monday night, Joe Jackson told CNN’s Larry King that he doesn’t believe Murray is the only person responsible for his son’s death. “To me, he’s just the fall guy. There’s other people I think involved with this whole thing,” Joe Jackson said, without elaborating.
Joe Jackson also told King his son believed his life was in danger. “Michael said it himself that he would be killed,” Joe Jackson said. “He even told his kids that he would be murdered.”
Earlier, several people shouted “murderer” as Murray walked past a crowd of hundreds of reporters and Jackson fans on his way to a courthouse adjacent to Los Angeles International Airport. Others held signs urging “Justice For Michael.”
Murray, 56, a Houston cardiologist who was with Jackson when he died June 25, entered his plea just hours after he was charged.
A Minnesota volunteer firefighter was suspended Sunday for flying a Confederate flag from an engine that he drove in a holiday parade, and he said he expects to be asked to resign.
Brian Nielsen, 43, drove a Hartland Fire Department truck in the Third of July Parade in the southern Minnesota city of Albert Lea, the Albert Lea Tribune first reported. Nielsen, who's been with the department for about 10 years, flew both the Confederate and American flags from the back of the truck. He said neither his town nor his department had anything to do with it.
Nielsen said he's not for slavery, but did it because he was fed up with political correctness.
"It was my decision and I didn't think it was going to be a big deal, but boy was I wrong," Nielsen told The Associated Press.
He said Hartland Fire Chief Trent Wangen suspended him Sunday pending an investigation.
"More than likely I'll probably be asked to step down," Nielsen said. "I respect that and will do that if they want."
The killings of nine people at a historically black South Carolina church last month have sparked debate nationwide about the appropriateness of displaying the Confederate flag. The man charged in the shooting deaths had posted photographs of himself with the flag on social media.
Nielsen said he didn't think flying the flag would draw as much flak as it has. It's been the subject of critical tweets and Facebook postings. He said a woman wearing a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party patch came up to him and criticized the flag before the parade, but other spectators stood up and clapped as the truck flying both the U.S. and Confederate flags passed by.
Friday's parade was organized by the Albert Lea Chamber of Commerce. Its executive director, Randy Kehr, said the display was "unfortunate" but within the firefighter's rights. He told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis he didn't know ahead of time that the truck would carry the Confederate flag, and probably would have respectfully asked Nielsen not to fly it if he had known.
The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from Nevada over a lawsuit that claims the state wrongfully bused indigent psychiatric patients to San Francisco without paying the costs of their medical care.
The justices on Tuesday let stand a lower court decision that said California state courts have authority to hear the case challenging Nevada's discharge policies.
San Francisco is seeking $500,000 in reimbursement costs for treating 29 patients who were given vouchers for one-way bus tickets to California. It also wants an order barring Nevada from sending over any more patients.
A California Superior Court judge ruled that Nevada could be sued in California because it knew San Francisco would have to spend money on the patients.
Nevada claims the lawsuit interferes with its sovereign powers.
A strongly worded dissent in the U.S. Supreme Court's narrow decision this week upholding the use of an execution drug offered a glimmer of hope to death penalty opponents in what they considered otherwise a gloomy ruling. One advocate went so far Tuesday as to call it a blueprint for a fresh attack on the legality of capital punishment itself.
But even those who see Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent as a silver lining think it will take time to mount a viable challenge.
And Breyer's words don't change the fact that the Supreme Court has consistently upheld capital punishment for nearly four decades. The five justices forming the majority in Monday's decision made it clear they feel that states must somehow be able to carry out the death penalty.
In disagreeing with the 5-4 ruling that approved Oklahoma's use of an execution drug, Breyer, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, called it "highly likely that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment," which protects against cruel and unusual punishment.
"It was a sweeping and powerful dissent that issues an invitation that we should accept, which is to make the case for why today the death penalty itself is no longer constitutional," said Cassandra Stubbs, director of the Capital Punishment Project of the American Civil Liberties Union.