AP, Apr 1, 2010 9:25 pm PDT
Michael Jackson’s doctor is “hanging on by a thread” and must be allowed to continue practicing medicine in order to pay for his defense on a manslaughter charge in the pop star’s death, the physician’s lawyers said in court papers filed Thursday. Responding to a bid by the California attorney general to suspend Dr. Conrad Murray’s medical license pending trial, attorneys Ed Chernoff and Joseph Low said that the effect would be devastating to the doctor who already faces a slew of financial problems.
“He is, without fear of overstatement, hanging on by a thread,” the attorneys wrote. “His ability to pay for his own defense depends almost entirely on his ability to continue to treat patients.”
Murray, who was working as Jackson’s personal physician, is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the singer’s death from the anesthetic propofol and other drugs. He has pleaded not guilty.
Murray is scheduled for a court appearance Monday at which a judge may be assigned to his case and a preliminary hearing date selected.
The attorney general’s office said a representative of the Medical Board of California will appear to challenge Murray’s license. Murray has already been told not to use anesthetics.
Murray’s lawyers said there is no need to revoke his California license since he does not practice in the state and cautioned that a suspension would have a “domino effect” leading to his inability to practice at his clinics in Nevada and Texas.
“If Dr. Murray is unable to practice medicine in Texas, and especially Nevada, he will likely be faced with the inability to adequately defend himself of the charges facing him in the Superior Court of California,” his lawyers wrote. “The case with which he is charged will require intensive attorney work and fees. In light of the fact that much of his defense will be scientifically based and involves the death of an internationally famous decedent, expenses for his defense will be considerable.”
The attorneys also argued that the state is unfairly trying to curtail Murray’s right to a full hearing by the medical board.
They said a suspension would affect his ability to pay child support and to pay his employees and would negatively impact the patients he is treating in Nevada and Texas.
Court records show Murray had serious financial problems when he signed on in May at $150,000 per month to keep Jackson healthy through a series of comeback shows planned in London.
The cardiologist owed at least $780,000 for settlements against his business, outstanding mortgage payments on his house, delinquent student loans, child support and credit cards. He faced near foreclosure on his Las Vegas country club home.
In January, he made a payment of $1,003 on a $15,500 child support debt involving a California woman and her 11-year-old son.
In another development Thursday, Nevada state medical officials filed a formal complaint against Murray, saying he twice failed to mention delinquent child support payments on applications to renew his medical license. Miranda Sevcik, spokeswoman for Murray and his attorney Edward Chernoff says Murray’s legal team received the complaint weeks ago and hopes to resolve it in a way that allows the doctor to keep his medical license.
The next month, he failed to appear at a Las Vegas court proceeding and was found in default on a $132,000 debt related to office and medical equipment and services.
The attorney general’s office said Murray exercised “poor professional judgment” in Jackson’s treatment and “ultimately took the life of his patient.”
“Defendant’s behavior shows an utter disregard for the care and well-being of the persons entrusted to his care. His conduct is unprofessional and reckless,” the motion to revoke his license said. “This is conduct from which the public should be protected.”
Associated Press Writer Thomas Watkins contributed to this report.