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Judge Threatens to Sanction Attorneys In Michael Jackson Case

Saying he was concerned about the sharing of evidence among attorneys, a Los Angeles judge today threatened to penalize lawyers in the criminal case against Dr. Conrad Murray, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with singer Michael Jackson’s death.

During a pretrial hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor told defense attorneys and prosecutors he was disappointed in persistent complaints from both sides about lawyers failing to share evidence.

“I want to emphasize I am considering very seriously the imposition of monetary sanctions at this point,’ Pastor told the lawyers.

The judge’s comments were aimed at both prosecutors and defense attorneys, but he said specifically he was “disappointed’ at what he has been hearing about the lack of defense evidence being shared with prosecutors.

Pastor scheduled another hearing for 2 p.m. Wednesday, and he ordered that Murray and his lead attorney, Ed Chernoff, attend.

The judge noted that he did not want to punish Murray, but said he was considering penalties ranging from fines of $1,500 per day per lawyer, a possible delay in the scheduled March 24 trial date, inclusion of jury instructions in the case about “tardy discovery’ and — as a last resort — preclusion of some witnesses from testifying.

“I seriously am considering all sorts of responses to the discovery situation,’ the judge said.

During the hearing, Deputy District Attorney Deborah Brazil said defense attorneys turned over 526 pages of discovery last week, but 380 of them involved probate issues, and she was unclear of their relevance to the case.

Defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan, however, complained that prosecutors were also failing to share evidence, calling the flow of information a “one-way street.’

Pastor demanded that the attorneys make serious improvement in communication before Wednesday.

“I expect a dramatically increased production of discovery between now and then,’ he said.

Both prosecutors in the case have asked that the March 24 trial date be pushed back. Pastor has not ruled on the motion, saying today that the District Attorney’s Office would need to provide some case law to back up their request.

Murray, 58, is charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with Jackson’s death at age 50, amid a series of rehearsals for an upcoming series of sold-out concerts in London.

Murray is accused of administering the powerful anesthetic propofol to the singer to help him sleep, then failing to properly monitor him.

Jackson was pronounced dead at 2:26 p.m. on June 25, 2009, after doctors at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center unsuccessfully tried to revive him.

Paramedics who responded to the entertainer’s rented Holmby Hills estate about two hours earlier said he appeared to have been dead for 20 minutes to an hour.

Murray proclaimed himself “an innocent man’ during a Jan. 25 court hearing, two weeks after he was ordered to stand trial following a six-day preliminary hearing.

Copyright © 2011 City News Service

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