Jackson doctor’s defence now looks at the science

2011-10-27 09:30

Los Angeles – Defence lawyers for the doctor charged in Michael Jackson’s death will shift the focus today away from personal testimonials to the scientific issues they hope will prevent him from being convicted.

The final witnesses testifying for Dr Conrad Murray will be fellow doctors, one an expert in addiction and the other in the powerful anaesthetic that the Houston-based cardiologist was giving Jackson as a sleep aid.

Their testimony could make the difference in whether Murray is convicted or acquitted of involuntary manslaughter in connection with Jackson’s June 2009 death. Authorities contend Murray gave Jackson a fatal dose of propofol and botched resuscitation efforts.

Murray’s attorneys contend that Jackson gave himself the fatal dose of propofol when his doctor left the room, but have not yet shown evidence about how that theory is even possible.

Several prosecution experts have said the self-administration defence was improbable and a key expert said he ruled it out completely, arguing the more likely scenario is that Murray gave Jackson a much higher dose than he has admitted.

The scientific testimony of Dr Robert Waldman and Dr Paul White comes a day after jurors heard from five of Murray’s other patients, who described the cardiologist as a caring physician who performed procedures for free and spent hours getting to know them.

When Ruby Mosley described Murray’s work at a clinic he founded in a poor neighbourhood in Houston in memory of his father, tears welled up in the eyes of the normally stoic doctor-turned-defendant.

Waldman is an addiction expert who may try to bolster the defence theory that Jackson had become dependent using propofol to get to sleep and was driven to self-administer it when Murray left his bedside.

It will be up to White to explain whether that was possible. He sat in court throughout the testimony of prosecution propofol expert Dr Steven Shafer, at times shaking his head and furiously passing notes to defence attorneys.

In the courthouse, he has been seen conferring with Murray in the hall outside the courtroom.

White and Waldman do not necessarily have to convince jurors that Jackson gave himself the fatal dose, but merely provide them with enough reasonable doubt about the prosecution case against Murray.

While prosecutors have portrayed Murray (58) as a reckless physician who repeatedly broke the rules by giving Jackson propofol as a sleep aid, jurors heard a different portrait of the doctor yesterday.

Several of the character witnesses called described Murray as the best doctor they had ever seen and highlighted his skills at repairing their hearts.

“I’m alive today because of that man,” said Andrew Guest of Las Vegas. “That man sitting there is the best doctor I’ve ever seen.”

Another former patient, Gerry Causey, stopped to shake Murray’s hand in the courtroom and said the physician was his best friend.

A prosecutor noted that none of them were being treated for sleep issues, although Causey and others said they didn’t believe the allegations against Murray.

Defence attorneys have told Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor they expect their case to conclude today. Pastor said if that happens, closing arguments would occur next week.

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