NEW: Dr. Conrad Murray is "just a little fish in a big, dirty pond," defense says
Defense expert offered "junk science," prosecutor argues
Dr. Murray's use of propofol was an "obscene experiment," prosecutor says
"Conrad Murray left Prince, Paris and Blanket without a father," prosecutor says
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The evidence is “overwhelming” and “it’s abundantly clear” that Dr. Conrad Murray caused the death of Michael Jackson, the lead prosecutor told jurors in closing arguments in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Jackson’s doctor Thursday.
Defense lawyer Ed Chernoff argued there was no crime committed and it’s a negligence case that should instead be heard by the state medical board.
“If it were anybody else but Michael Jackson, would this doctor be here today?” Chernoff asked.
The jury heard several hours of arguments from both sides Thursday and will begin deliberations on Murray’s fate Friday morning.
“He was just a little fish in a big, dirty pond,” Chernoff said, pointing the finger at other doctors who treated Jackson and Jackson himself.
Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009, was caused by “acute propofol intoxication” in combination with two sedatives, the Los Angeles County coroner ruled.
Prosecutors contend Murray’s use of the surgical anesthetic propofol in Jackson’s home to treat his insomnia was so reckless it was criminally negligent.
The defense contends Jackson self-administered the fatal overdose of drugs in a desperate search for sleep without Murray’s knowing.
“What they’re really asking you to do is to convict Dr. Murray for the actions of Michael Jackson,” Chernoff said.
After Chernoff finished his arguments, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney David Walgren attacked the defense for trying to blame “everybody but Conrad Murray, poor Conrad Murray.”
“If allowed more time to argue, I am sure they would find a way to blame Michael’s son, Prince,” Walgren said in his rebuttal after Chernoff sat down.
Walgren began his closing arguments earlier Thursday, reminding jurors of the personal pain caused by Jackson’s death.
“Conrad Murray left Prince, Paris and Blanket without a father,” Walgren said. “For them, this case doesn’t end today, or tomorrow. For Michael’s children, this case will go on forever, because they do not have a father, they do not have a father because of the actions of Conrad Murray.”
In court Thursday were Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson; his father, Joe Jackson; and two of his siblings, Randy and La Toya Jackson.
Murray’s mother was seated on the other side of the small courtroom with several of the defendant’s friends as Walgren reminded jurors about the pain Jackson’s death caused for his children.
“We will discuss how Paris had to come in and see her father in that condition and scream out ‘Daddy!’ as she broke down in tears,” Walgren said. “How Prince had a shocked face, a shocked look on his face and was crying.”
Walgren reminded jurors that they each assured him during jury selection that they could reach a verdict even if they did not hear all of the answers about how Jackson died.
“There may be 100 questions and maybe 97 of them are left unanswered, but under the law you must answer just three,” Walgren said.
Telephone records and testimony suggested Murray was talking to Sade Anding, a Houston cocktail waitress, at the time he realized Jackson had stopped breathing. Murray’s call to Anding was evidence that Murray was not monitoring him after giving him propofol.
“What was so important to Conrad Murray that he had to call Sade Anding at that time? What was so important to this doctor that he needed to call one of his female friends in Houston? What was so pressing that he just couldn’t care for Michael Jackson, that he had to call Sade Anding?”
Walgren said it will never be known how long Jackson had not been breathing when Murray dropped the phone in the middle of his conversation with Anding.
“Was Conrad Murray in another room? Did Michael Jackson yell out for help? Did he gasp? Did he choke? Were there sounds? We don’t know and we’ll never know, because of the neglect and negligence of Conrad Murray.”
Walgren questioned why Murray waited at least 20 minutes after he found Jackson was not breathing before he asked a security guard call for an ambulance.
The delay was an extreme deviation from the standard of care required of a doctor, and the failure to act was criminally negligent, he argued.
“The most common sense thing that we all learn as young children that you call 911,” he said. Murray’s delay contributed to Jackson’s death, he argued.
“To speak to a 911 operator was the only hope of Michael Jackson being revived to see another day,” Walgren said.
Walgren said Murray’s delay was because he was “putting Conrad Murray first.”
“What on earth would motivate a medical doctor to delay making that call, other than to protect himself, other than sheer self-preservation, putting Conrad Murray first, putting Michael Jackson and his life last,” Walgren said.
Paramedics arrived just four minutes after the call, but too late to save Jackson, he said.
Chernoff argued that Murray depended on chef Kai Chase to send up a security guard while he was trying to revive Jackson, but she only sent son Prince.
Dr. Murray spoke with police two days after Jackson’s death “to get ahead of the story,” because he knew there would be toxicology reports showing he died from propofol and sedatives, Walgren said.
“Unfortunately, his version doesn’t match up with the evidence, the phone records, the e-mails, but he knew what toxicology findings would show,” Walgren said.
Walgren argued that until the Murray case, no one ever heard of propofol being used this way. He called it “a pharmaceutical experiment on Michael Jackson … an obscene experiment.”
Walgren attacked Dr. Paul White, the defense propofol expert, for his determination “to find a theory or way to blame it on Michael Jackson.”
White testified that the levels of propofol and sedatives found in Jackson’s stomach, blood and urine during the autopsy convinced him that Jackson swallowed a large does of lorazepam and later gave himself with a rapid injection of propofol, which led to his death.
“What you were presented from Dr. White was junk science,” Walgren said.
“It is sad that Dr. White came in here, for whatever motive he may have had, for whatever financial considerations he did not share, we don’t know,” he said.
White acknowledged that he is normally paid $3,500 a day for his services as an expert witness.
Chernoff defended his expert and attacked prosecution anesthesiology expert Dr. Steve Shafer, saying Shafer was “not a scientist, he was an advocate. He was trying to prove a point; he was trying to prove a case.”
“Dr. White knows more about propofol than Dr. Shafer will ever, ever know,” Chernoff said.
Shafer testified that the “only scenario” in Jackson’s death was one involving an intravenous drip system infusing a steady flow of propofol into Jackson over several hours before his death.
Chernoff attacked what he said were weaknesses in the prosecution’s argument that Murray placed Jackson on an IV drip of propofol the morning he died.
“The prosecution desperately needed a drip,” Chernoff said, because they couldn’t prove there was a crime without it.
The single injection of propofol that Murray told police he gave Jackson would have been out of his system well before the time he found him in distress, Chernoff said.
“If Dr. Murray did what he said he did, there was no danger to Michael Jackson,” Chernoff said. “Michael Jackson was not going to die and it doesn’t matter if you leave the room and go outside and play basketball,
“Without a drip, what Dr. Murray gave Michael Jackson would not have harmed him,” he said.
Chernoff attacked the credibility of Alberto Alvarez, Jackson’s former bodyguard, who testify that he saw a propofol bottle inside an empty saline bag suspended on an IV stand by Jackson’s bed.
The two months Alvarez waited after Jackson’s death to tell police about the bottle in a bag, the lack of his fingerprints on the bag he said he held, and his description of the bag having a milky substance in it, when no drugs were detected, make his testimony questionable, Chernoff said.
Alavarez, who placed the 911 call from Jackson’s bedroom, also testified he helped remove Jackson from the bed and performed CPR on him, but a paramedic contradicted that testimony.
Chernoff suggested Alvarez embellished his story to make it more valuable.
“All the sudden, his story becomes monumentally more compelling and more valuable,”
Alvarez acknowledged he turned down a $500,000 offer for an interview, he said.
“Do you honestly believe that Alberto Alvarez is not going to cash in?”
A coroner’s investigator and a police detective who found the saline bag and propofol bottle never took a photo of them together or made a note about the bottle being inside the bag, Chernoff said, “because he didn’t see it, because it wasn’t there.”
Chernoff argued the “bottle in a bag” theory was even less believable because the propofol bottle had a plastic strapped attached to it so it can be hung from an IV stand. That strip was never used, both sides agreed.
“Dr. Murray didn’t have to go through the ridiculous, absurd step of cutting a bag, propping it up into a cut IV bag, hanging it up where it could fall,” Chernoff said.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor began Thursday’s court session by instructing the jury – made up of seven men and five women – on the law guiding the decisions they must make.
Pastor said that the jury must unanimously agree on one of two theories in order to convict Murray on the single count of involuntary manslaughter.
The first theory is that Murray’s administration of propofol to Jackson was criminally negligent and it caused Jackson’s death.
Although it was legal, as a licensed doctor, for Murray to administer propofol to Jackson, they could find he was reckless in the way he did it, which created a high risk of death.
Criminal negligence requires more than just ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistakes in judgment, the judge instructed the jurors. A reasonable person would have to have known that the action would create such a risk of death.
Prosecutors have laid out a list of acts they allege were negligent, including not having other medical staff present when propofol was used, a lack of monitoring equipment, ineffective resuscitative care when Jackson stopped breathing and a delay in calling for an ambulance.
Using propofol, which is intended to sedate surgical patients, for sleep was another egregious deviation, they argue.
The second theory that jurors could accept is that Murray, who assumed a legal obligation to care for Jackson when he became his physician, failed to perform this legal duty by deviating from standards of care required of a doctor, including, when he left him alone and unmonitored after administering propofol.
Murray, if convicted, faces up to four years in prison and the loss of his medical license.