Nurse: Michael Jackson insisted propofol was safe

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Story highlights

  • Jackson would've had to pay production, rehearsal costs if tour was canceled, promoter says
  • Jackson told nurse that doctors assured him propofol in the home was safe, witness says
  • "I only need someone to monitor me with the equipment while I sleep" Jackson told nurse
  • Jackson mom Katherine, sisters Janet and La Toya, and brother Randy Jackson attend court Tuesday
Michael Jackson's fear that promoters would "pull the plug" on his comeback concerts if he missed more rehearsals was unfounded, the head of the promotion company testified Tuesday in Dr. Conrad Murray's involuntary manslaughter trial.
"No one on our end was ever contemplating pulling the plug," said Randy Phillips, the head of AEG Live.
Murray's defense lawyers contend Jackson self-administered the overdose of drugs that killed him in a "desperate desire to get to sleep," because he feared without rest he would miss his next rehearsal and trigger the cancellation of his "This Is It" tour.
Jackson's mother, Katherine, sisters Janet and La Toya, and brother Randy Jackson were in court to watch Tuesday's testimony.
Earlier Tuesday, a nurse who tried to treat Jackson's insomnia with natural remedies testified that Jackson told her that doctors assured him using the surgical anesthetic propofol at home to induce sleep was safe as long as he was monitored.
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Jackson died two months after that conversation with nurse Cherilyn Lee, from what the coroner ruled was an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol, combined with sedatives.
Prosecutors contend Dr. Murray's use of propofol to treat Jackson's insomnia in his home was reckless, in part because he did not have proper equipment to monitor his patient and he abandoned him to make phone calls.
Phillips was the eighth witness called by the defense since the prosecution rested its case against Murray Monday morning.
If the tour was canceled, Jackson would have to pay for all of the production and rehearsal costs, Phillips said, although the judge would not let him tell jurors how much that might have been.
Defense lawyer Ed Chernoff estimated the cost to be about $40 million, leaving him "a very, very poor man," but it was not while the jury was present.
Concert director Kenny Ortega sent Phillips an e-mail five days before Jackson's death referring to Jackson's fear the company would "pull the plug" on the tour. The e-mail triggered a meeting with Jackson and Dr. Murray to address Ortega's concerns about Jackson's "lack of focus" and missed rehearsals, with the debut of his London shows just three weeks away.
He and Ortega were satisfied when Jackson told them "You build the house and I will put on the door and paint it," suggesting he would be ready, Phillips testified.
Also at the meeting, Phillips told Dr. Murray that he wanted to make sure he knew about Jackson's visits to another doctor, dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein. "Because he's his principal physician, I thought he should know," he said.
Phillips said he was concerned because Jackson "seemed a little distracted and not focused" in a meeting after a visit to Klein's Beverly Hills clinic.
The defense contends Jackson became addicted to the painkiller Demerol in his frequent visits to Klein in the three months before his death. His withdrawal from the Demerol, which Murray was unaware of, would explain why Jackson could not sleep the day he died, the defense contends.
Testimony from nurse Cherilyn Lee's was interrupted for 25 minutes Tuesday as she was overcome with emotion. "I'm feeling really, really dizzy," Lee said. "This is just very sensitive to me."
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Lee and a Los Angeles doctor, both called as defense witnesses, testified that Jackson asked them for drugs to help him sleep in April 2009. This was after Dr. Murray had already agreed to work as his personal physician and placed his first orders for propofol.
Lee, who used IV drips loaded with vitamins, "sophisticated" vitamin smoothies and bedtime teas, to treat Jackson's insomnia, said Jackson became frustrated with her natural remedies.
"He said 'I'm telling you the only thing that's going to help me sleep right away is the Diprivan and can you find someone to help me to sleep?'" Lee said. Diprivan is a brand name for propofol.
After some quick research, the nurse warned Jackson that it was dangerous to use propofol at home, Lee testified.
Jackson was not deterred, she said, even after she asked him "but what if you don't wake up?"
Deputy District Attorney David Walgren asked her, "And he responded, 'I will be OK, I only need someone to monitor me with the equipment while I sleep'?"
"Yes, that's exactly what I said," Lee said.
Dr. Allan Metzger, who treated Jackson off and on for two decades for "his profound sleep disorder," testified Monday that Jackson called him to his home on April 18, 2009, to ask for "intravenous sleep medicine" to help him sleep.
Jackson wanted the anesthetic delivered by IV because "he did not believe any oral medicine would be helpful," Dr. Metzger said.
Metzger declined Jackson's request, instead giving him prescriptions for two oral sedatives to help him sleep.