"Justice for Michael!"
That was the rallying cry for a Facebook-spawned group of superfans who hired a skywriter to spread their message over the downtown Los Angeles courthouse today—adding to the circus atmosphere as Michael Jackson's former personal physician made a court appearance in his manslaughter case.
Also on hand to give a thumbs-down to Dr. Conrad Murray were members of the Jackson clan, including patriarch Joe (who is plotting a civil suit against Murray for causing Michael's death), mom Katherine and siblings Jermaine, Randy and Janet.
"Everybody's making a big deal about it, but it's just a routine setting date," said Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Sure, but that didn't mean there wasn't drama.
Murray, who has pleaded not guilty to giving Jackson a lethal overdose of propofol, was booed and hissed at by fans as he was led through the hallway and into the courtroom, where the stony-faced Jacksons sat waiting together in the front row. The family has vowed to make sure Murray is held responsible for their tragic loss and sentenced to the maximum four years in prison.
Outside, in addition to the skywriting, there were dozens more Michael Jackson fans singing "We Are the World" and sporting matching red armbands and "Justice for M.J." T-shirts. Many were lugging signs expressing outrage ("Dr. Murray Makes Us Want to Scream") and sadness ("We Miss You, Michael") over the death of their hero.
It's now up to Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor to schedule a preliminary hearing to determine whether Murray will stand trial and whether the doctor can hold onto his medical license.
In court papers last week, Murray's lawyers attempted to block prosecutors from having his license revoked, saying the financially strapped cardiologist is "without fear of overstatement, hanging on by a thread."
Today, Pastor met with the prosecution and the defense in chambers for about 30 minutes before scheduling another hearing for June 14, on which date he's expected to decide on a date for the preliminary hearing.
Reps for the California Attorney General's Office, which is spearheading the license-revocation effort, asked that their motion be heard before the next hearing.
Pastor said in open court that Attorney General Jerry Brown appointed him to a judgeship 25 years ago, but that it would not interfere with his ability to hear the case impartially.
Jackson's family, left the court amid more "Justice for Michael" chants and climbed into a caravan of black SUVs without speaking to the media.
(Originally published April 5, 2010, at 2:05 p.m. PT)
Hard to believe it's been nearly 10 months since Michael Jackson passed. Take a look back in our Mourning Michael Jackson gallery.