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Michael Jackson Death Trial: Witness Says Singer Caused His Own Death

Conrad Murray Trial

LINDA DEUTSCH   10/29/11 03:10 AM ET   AP

LOS ANGELES — With dramatic courtroom testimony, attorneys for Michael Jackson's doctor have dropped the bombshell they've been hinting at for months – an expert opinion accusing the singer of causing his own death.

Dr. Paul White said Jackson injected himself with a dose of propofol after an initial dose by Dr. Conrad Murray wore off. He also calculated that Jackson gave himself another sedative, lorazepam, by taking pills after an infusion of that drug and others by Murray failed to put him to sleep.

That combination of drugs could have had "lethal consequences," the defense team's star scientific witness said Friday.

Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

White showed jurors a series of charts and simulations he created in the past two days to support the defense theory. He also did a courtroom demonstration of how the milky white anesthetic propofol could have entered Jackson's veins in the small dose that Murray claimed he gave the insomniac star.

White said he accepted Murray's statement to police that he administered only 25 milligrams of propofol after a night-long struggle to get Jackson to sleep with infusions of other sedatives.

"How long would that (propofol) have had an effect on Mr. Jackson?" asked defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan.

"If you're talking effect on the central nervous system, 10 to 15 minutes max," White said.

He then said Jackson could have injected himself with another 25 milligrams during the time Murray has said he left the singer's room.

"So you think it was self-injected propofol between 11:30 and 12?" asked Flanagan.

"In my opinion, yes," White said.

The witness, one of the early researchers of the anesthetic, contradicted testimony by Dr. Steven Shafer, his longtime colleague and collaborator. Shafer earlier testified Jackson would have been groggy from all the medications he was administered during the night and could not have given himself the drug in the two minutes Murray said he was gone.

"He can't give himself an injection if he's asleep," Shafer told jurors last week. He called the defense theory of self-administration "crazy."

White's testimony belied no animosity between the two experts, who have worked together for 30 years. Although White was called out by the judge one day for making derogatory comments to a TV reporter about the prosecution case, White was respectful and soft spoken on the witness stand.

When Flanagan made a mistake and called him "Dr. Shafer" a few times, White said, "I'm honored."

The prosecution asked for more time to study the computer program White used before cross-examining him. Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor granted the request, saying he too was baffled by the complicated simulations of Jackson's fatal dose. He recessed court early and gave prosecutors the weekend to catch up before questioning White on Monday.

The surprise disclosure of White's new theory caused a disruption of the court schedule, and the judge had worried aloud that jurors, who expected the trial to be over this week, were being inconvenienced. But the seven men and five women appeared engaged in the testimony and offered no complaints when the judge apologized for the delay.

Prosecutors could call Shafer back during their rebuttal case to answer White's assertions.

Among the key issues is how White calculated that a large residue of propofol in Jackson's body could have come from the small dose that Murray says he administered. Shafer assumed Murray had lied, and he estimated Jackson actually was given 1,000 milligrams of the drug by Murray, who he said left the bottle running into an IV tube under the pull of gravity. White disputed that, saying an extra 25 milligrams self-administered by Jackson would be enough to reach the levels found in his blood and urine.

White also said a minuscule residue of the sedative lorazepam in Jackson's stomach convinced him the singer took some pills from a prescription bottle found in his room. He suggested the combination of lorazepam, another sedative, midazolam, plus the propofol could have killed Jackson.

"It potentially could have lethal consequences," said White. "... I think the combination effect would be very, very profound."

White's testimony was expected to end Murray's defense case after 16 witnesses. It likely will be vigorously challenged by prosecutors, who spent four weeks laying out their case that Murray is a greedy, inept and reckless doctor who was giving Jackson propofol as a sleep aid in the singer's bedroom. Experts including Shafer have said propofol is not intended to treat insomnia and should not be given in a home.

White's theory was based on urine and blood levels in Jackson's autopsy, evidence found in Jackson's bedroom and Murray's long interview with police detectives two days after Jackson died while in his care.

While accepting Murray's account of drugs he gave Jackson, the expert's calculations hinged on the invisible quotient: Jackson's possible movements while his doctor was out of the room. With no witnesses and contradictory physical evidence, that has become the key question hanging over the case.

Those who knew the entertainer in his final days offered a portrait of a man gripped by fear that he would not live up to big plans for his comeback concert and worried about his ability to perform if he didn't get sleep. He was plagued by insomnia, and other medical professionals told of his quest for the one drug he believed could help him. He called it his "milk," and it was propofol.

Jurors have now seen it up close as both Shafer and White demonstrated its potential use as an IV infusion.

With White's testimony, the defense sought to answer strong scientific evidence by the prosecution. But they did not address other questions such as allegations that Murray was negligent and acting below the standard of care for a physician.

Flanagan, the defense attorney, produced a certificate from Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas showing Murray was certified to administer moderate anesthesia, referred to as "conscious sedation." However, the document showed several requirements including that the physician "monitor the patient carefully" and "provide adequate oxygenation and ventilation for a patient that stops breathing."

Medical witnesses noted that Murray left his patient alone under anesthesia and did not have adequate equipment to revive him when he found him not breathing.

The coroner attributed Jackson's June 25, 2009, death to "acute propofol intoxication" complicated by other sedatives.

Loading Slideshow...
  • The Victim

    <strong>The Victim: </strong>Michael Jackson (shown here on March 5, 2009) <strong>Known Aliases:</strong> The King of Pop, Omar Arnold, Josephine Baker, Paul Farance, Bryan Singleton, and Prince - to name a few, reports <a href="" target="_hplink">TMZ</a>.

  • The Accused

    <strong>The Accused:</strong> Dr. Conrad Murray Dr. Murray was hired as Michael Jackson's personal physician for the 2009 <em>This Is It</em> concert tour. On June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson died of "acute propofol intoxication" in his Bel-Air home. Jackson was officially pronounced dead at UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Murray was at his side in the ambulance. Last year, Dr. Conrad Murray was charged with "involuntary manslaughter by the Los Angeles District Attorney's office," as reported by <a href="" target="_hplink">CNN</a>. The trial began on September 27, and is expected to last 5-6 weeks.

  • The Judge

    <strong>The Judge:</strong> Michael Pastor, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor was named Judge of the Year in 2007 by the LA County Bar Association, reports <a href="" target="_hplink">Radar Online</a>.

  • The Prosecution

    <strong>The Prosecution:</strong> David Walgren, Deputy District Attorney In his opening statement David Walgren stated, "It will be clear that Conrad Murray abandoned Michael when he needed help." Walgren is also known for writing the argument <em>against</em> Roman Polanski's effort to seek dismissal of the pending child-sex case against him, reports <a href="" target="_hplink">Fox</a>.

  • The Co-Counsel

    <strong>The Co-Counsel to the Prosecution:</strong> Deborah Brazil, Deputy District Attorney The fifteen-year veteran is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Law at <a href="" target="_hplink">Southwestern Law</a>, her alma mater.

  • The Defense

    <strong>The Defense:</strong> Ed Chernoff In the Texas-based Attorney's opening statements he asserted, "While Michael Jackson was frustrated because he could not sleep, frustrated because his doctor refused to give him a drug that he preferred, that he wanted, he did an act without his doctor's knowledge, without his doctor's permission."

  • The Co-Counsel

    <strong>The Co-Counsel to the Defense:</strong> J. Michael Flanagan and Nareg Gourjian (seen here with The Accused: Dr. Conrad Murray). Nareg Gourjian and J. Michael Flanagan defended Britney Spears in her 2007 hit-and-run case, reports ABC.

  • The Head Of Security

    <strong>The Head Of Security:</strong> Faheem Muhammad Muhammad witnessed Michael Jackson's children enter the bedroom crime scene. He testified that Paris Jackson was "on the ground, balled up crying," and Prince Jackson "was shocked," at the sight of his father.

  • The Security

    <strong>The Security:</strong> Alberto Alvarez Alvarez was the first staff member to enter Jackson's bedroom after Conrad Murray called for help. He testified to the series of events that took place in the bedroom, prior to the 911 call, reports <a href="" target="_hplink">OTRC</a>.

  • The Personal Assistant

    <strong>The Personal Assistant:</strong> Michael Amir Williams Michael Amir Williams alleges that Dr. Murray asked to return to the Jackson residence post-mordem to retrieve "some cream Michael wouldn't want the world to know about," reports ABC.

  • The Personal Chef

    <strong>The Personal Chef:</strong> Kai Chase Chase claims Dr. Murray ran to get her in the kitchen around lunch time, yelling "Get Prince, get help, get security." Dr. Murray didn't ask Chase to dial 911, according to her testimony.

  • The #1 Paramedic

    <strong>The #1 Paramedic:</strong> Richard Senneff Senneff testified that Michael Jackson could have been saved, but the paramedic claims he was given false information upon arriving at the scene. "When I first moved the patient, his skin was very cool to the touch. When I took a first glance at him, his eyes were open, they were dry and his pupils were dilated. When I hooked up the EKG machine, there was a flatline," which wouldn't have been the case if 911 has been called immediately upon finding Jackson, as reported by The BH Courier.

  • The #2 Paramedic

    <strong>The #2 Paramedic:</strong> Martin Blount Blount testified that Dr. Murray claimed Jackson was "dehydrated," reports <a href="" target="_hplink">TMZ</a>.

  • The Coroner Investigator

    <strong>The Coroner Investigator:</strong> Elissa Fleak, Los Angeles County Coroner's Office (seen in the background) Fleak testified that she found a "nearly-empty 20-milligram vial of propofol on the floor, as well as an empty bottle of flumazenil, which is used to treat benzodiazepine overdoses," at the crime scene, reports <a href="" target="_hplink">The Wrap</a>. Elissa Fleak also testified that she accidentally <em>touched</em> a syringe in Jackson's bedroom- leaving a thumbprint.

  • The ER Doctor

    <strong>The ER Doctor:</strong> Dr. Richelle Cooper Dr. Cooper testified that "Mr. Jackson died long before he became a patient." The <a href="" target="_hplink"><em>LA Times</em></a> reports that Dr. Cooper pronounced Jackson dead twice -- once on the phone (while Jackson was at home) and later at the hospital.

  • The Second ER Doctor

    <strong>The ER Doctor:</strong> Dr. Thao Nguyen, Cardiologist Dr. Nguyen testified that "when she pressed him for the time he had given the drug, he said he didn't know," reports the <a href="" target="_hplink"><em>LA Times</em></a>. "He said he did not have a watch," Dr. Nguyen said.

  • The Pharmacist

    <strong>The Pharmacist:</strong> Tim Lopez The Las Vegas pharmacist testified that he sent seven FedEx packages containing Propofol to an address in Santa Monica (belonging to Nicole Alvarez).

  • The Mistress

    <strong>The Mistress:</strong> Nicole Alvarez Alvarez is the mother's of Dr. Conrad Murray's son. She testified to receiving FedEx packages (containing Propofol, the prosecution argues) but was unaware of the contents and did not open them. She stated that she spoke to Dr. Murray the day Michael Jackson died -- she remembers Dr. Murray telling her "that he was on the way to the hospital in the ambulance with Mr. Jackson, and for me not to be alarmed."

  • The Houston Waitress

    <strong>The Houston Waitress:</strong> Sade Anding Sade spoke with Dr. Murray the morning of Michael's death. The waitress was on the phone with Dr. Murray for about five minutes before the line went silent. The <a href="" target="_hplink"><em>LA Times</em></a> reports, "I started telling him about my day, and that's when I realized he was no longer on the phone," Anding testified. "I was just talking, and the next thing, I said 'Hello hello,' and then I didn't hear anything."

  • The Nightclub Dancer

    <strong>The Nightclub Dancer:</strong> Michelle Bella Michelle Bella stated that she received a text (unrelated to Michael Jackson) from Dr. Murray the morning of Jackson's death, reports <a href="" target="_hplink">Hollywood Gossip</a>.

  • The Pursuer

    <strong>The Pursuer:</strong> Bridgette Morgan The <a href="" target="_hplink"><em>LA Times</em></a> reports that Morgan met Dr. Murray at a Las Vegas nightclub. She called Murray the morning of Jackson's death, but Dr. Murray didn't answer.

  • The Estate Attorney

    <strong>The Estate Attorney:</strong> Howard Weitzman Weitzman previously told <a href="" target="_hplink">TMZ</a>, "The Jackson family has NO rights to determine what charities receive money from Michael's Estate but Mrs. Jackson will certainly have input." Weitzman has represented John DeLorean, Marlon Brando, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  • The Co-Executor

    <strong>The Co-Executor:</strong> John Branca, Entertainment Lawyer In December 2010, the Jackson Estate was worth $310 million in gross revenues and it is Branca's responsibility to distribute and manage this sum. Branca has represented Elvis, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys.

  • The CEO

    <strong>The CEO:</strong> Paul Gongaware, Co-CEO of AEG Live Gongaware claims Dr. Murray demanded $5 million for his medical services, reports <a href="" target="_hplink">TMZ</a>. Gongaware did say that Jackson once returned from a visit to Dr. Arnold Klein "with a slower, slurred speech pattern," reports<a href="" target="_hplink"> CNN</a>. AEG is being sued by Katherine Jackson, Michael's mother, for negligent supervision of defendant Murray while he was tending to Michael.

  • The AEG Live Attorney

    <strong>The Attorney, AEG Live:</strong> Kathy Jorrie In her testimony, Jorrie said that Dr. Conrad Murray assured her, in two separate conversations, that Michael Jackson was, "perfectly healthy" and in "excellent condition."

  • The Former Manager

    <strong>The Former Manager:</strong> Frank DiLeo Five days before Jackson's death DiLeo suggests to Dr. Murray he "get a blood test from Jackson" because they had "to see what he's doing," reports CNN.

  • The Producer/ Director

    <strong>The Producer/ Director:</strong> Kenny Ortega The Producer/ Director of <em>This Is It</em> and the Staples Center Michael Jackson Public Memorial. One week before Jackson's death, Ortega testified "My friend wasn't right. There was something going on that was deeply troubling..." as reported by the <a href="" target="_hplink"><em>LA Times</em></a>.

  • The Former Patient

    <strong>The Former Patient:</strong> Robert Russell Russell, a sales manager for an electrical distribution firm, stated that as a patient of Dr. Murray's he "was getting the best care in the world."

  • The Dermatologist

    <strong>The Dermatologist:</strong> Dr. Arnold Klein Dr. Klein was once thought to be the biological father of Jackson's children (Klein <a href="" target="_hplink">denied this</a> to Diane Sawyer). The defense <a href="" target="_hplink">argues</a> that Klein is responsible for Jackson's addiction to Demerol injections - and hence Klein is responsible for Jackson's dependency on powerful narcotics (such as propofol).

  • The Sleep Specialist

    <strong>The Sleep Specialist:</strong> Dr. Nader Kamangar In Dr. Kamanger's testimony he asserted that Dr. Conrad Murray was to blame for Jackson's death, whether he administered the Propofol or if he left Jackson unattended with the sedative, the <em><a href=",0,3651620.story" target="_hplink">LA Times</a></em> reports. Photo: Getty

  • The Cardiologist

    <strong>The Cardiologist:</strong> Dr. Alon Steinberg Dr. Steinberg expressed that "When [doctors] monitor a patient, you never leave their side, especially after giving propofol. It's like leaving a baby that's sleeping on your kitchen countertop," reports the <a href=",0,3651620.story" target="_hplink"><em>LA Times</em></a>. Steinberg is one of the witnesses expected to dissolve the defense's medical arguments. Photo: Getty

  • The Autopsy Doctor

    <strong>The Autopsy Doctor:</strong> Dr. Christopher Rogers Dr. Rogers was the autopsy doctor that ruled Michael Jackson's death a homicide. Dr. Christopher Rogers claims that the scenario presented by the defense is nearly impossible, reports <a href="" target="_hplink">TMZ</a>. Photo: Getty

  • The Toxicologist

    <strong>The Toxicologist:</strong> Dan Anderson During Anderson's time on the witness stand, the defense bombarded the Toxicologist. Flanagan and Anderson were debating what a theraputic level of a sedative was before Flanagan asked, "Well, the propofol is within therapeutic range also, isn't it?" To which Anderson replied, "I said it's within a therapeutic range in a proper setting. This is not a proper setting," reports <a href="" target="_hplink">Fox LA</a>. Photo: Getty

  • The LAPD Detective

    <strong>The LAPD Detective:</strong> Scott Smith Smith and Detective Orlando Martinez interviewed Dr. Conrad Murray two days after Jackson's death at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Marina Del Rey, reports The Daily Beast. At this point, the death had not yet been labeled a homicide. The defense argues that Smith took inadequate notes during this interview. Photo: Getty


Filed by Anna Almendrala  |