Conrad Murray declines to testify at trial

Dr. Conrad Murray declined to testify in his own defense Tuesday, setting the stage for closing arguments to begin on Thursday.

LOS ANGELES -- Michael Jackson's doctor finally made a decision he had long delayed, telling a judge Tuesday that he would not testify in his involuntary manslaughter trial.

Minutes later, the defense rested its case and the prosecution, after presenting brief rebuttal testimony, closed its presentation of evidence in the six-week trial.

That set the stage for closing arguments to begin Thursday.

Dr. Conrad Murray's announcement came while jurors were out of the room, and he was not asked to repeat it for them.

Spectators, including Jackson's mother, father, brother Randy and sister LaToya, seemed to hold their breath before Murray answered one of the biggest remaining questions of his trial, saying he would stay away from the witness stand.

Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor lectured Murray as he had before on how the decision to testify was his alone, and that he also had the right to remain silent.

"Have you made up your mind?" Pastor asked.

Murray paused, looked at all his lawyers, seemed to sigh and said, "My decision is I will not testify in this matter."

The judge asked lead attorney Ed Chernoff if he had conferred with Murray about his rights, and Chernoff said yes.

"The court finds the defendant has knowingly, freely and explicitly waived his right to testify," the judge said. "I certainly will respect that decision."

Murray had left open the possibility of testifying on Monday, when he told the judge that he had not made a final decision.

The judge had warned him that testifying brought with it the prospect of tough cross-examination by the prosecution. That may have swayed him, along with the fact that the jury already had a chance to hear him tell his story on a recording of a police interview.

When jurors returned to the courtroom, Chernoff announced that the defense had no further witnesses after calling 16 people to testify. A total of 49 witnesses testified for both sides over 22 days of trial.

Prosecutors contend that Murray gave Jackson a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol in the bedroom of Jackson's mansion.

Defense attorneys claim that Jackson self-administered the dose when Murray left the room.

Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's death on June 25, 2009. He could face up to four years behind bars and the loss of his medical license if convicted.