Conrad Murray was just doing his job.
At least, that's the way Michael Jackson's embattled doctor sees it. Murray pleaded not guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter at his arraignment this morning in Los Angeles Superior Court. In attendance were the late King of Pop's family, including mom Katherine Jackson and his brother Randy.
"Your honor, I am an innocent man," Murray, his voice cracking slightly, told Judge Michael Pastor shortly before entering his plea.
The cardiologist is accused of allegedly injecting Jackson with a lethal dose of Propofol, a sedative typically used in hospitals under the careful supervision of a physician and not meant for home use.
One of Murray's attorneys, Ed Chernoff, told the judge that he expects the trial to last eight weeks; the D.A. estimates it will take four to six.
"Dr. Murray is looking forward to telling his side of the story," Murray's lawyer said at a press conference afterward outside the courthouse. "Dr. Murray's been waiting 22 months for the opportunity to do this, and this is the first chance we have to force the issue."
Judge Pastor granted Chernoff's request that his client's presence be waived for pretrial activity in February so Murray can continue working and treating patients in Houston. While Murray had his license suspended in California, he still is allowed to practice in Nevada and Texas.
Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, tells E! News that the judge will likely rule in the coming weeks on whether TV cameras will be allowed in the courtroom. As for Murray's request not to attend pre-trial hearings, she noted that was nothing out of the ordinary.
"The law allows the defendant charged with a felony to waive certain appearances if they file the paperwork. Dr. Murray did that," she said, adding that he'll still have to be there for the trial.
In a grim irony to today's proceedings, a homeless man was found dead on a park bench near the courthouse before the hearing got under way. No foul play was suspected.
The next pretrial hearing is scheduled for Feb. 7. The trial is expected to kick off with jury selection on March 28.
--Reporting by Claudia Rosenbaum and Ken Baker