Conrad Murray: GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY

After some scheduling conflicts, involving the final prosecution witness, Dr. Steven Shafer testified to 17 egregious and unconscionable violations of the standard of medical care, directly contributing to Michael Jackson’s death.   “You don’t get up, leave the wheel, and to go to bathroom.”   Also at issue for Shafter was Murray’s statement to detectives that he only administered a total of 4mg of the sleep medication lorazepam to MJ the day he died.  Shafer felt Murray underestimated the true amount, based on the toxicology report.   Shafer claimed MJ probably died because his tongue blocked the back of his throat, which could have been prevented if Murray simply lifted his chin.  Michael Flanagan, arguably the most knowledgeable member of the defense with regard to propofol, stepped down to cross-examine; in his place, Ed Chernoff attempted to discredit Shafer’s testimony, especially Shafer’s assertion that MJ could not have self-administered the lethal dose.  Shafer restored by testifying the apparatus could have been taken by Murray before emergency medical staff arrived.  When Chernoff pointed out Shafer used the wrong size syringe and IV bag in his demonstrations, Shafer commented with a dismissive comment regarding size not being at issue…  The prosecution rested and the jury recessed for the weekend.

Monday, 10/24 , Chernoff’s cross-examination was less combative, focusing instead on Shafer’s calculations regarding MJ’s death via an propofol IV drip, and knowledge of drugs and certain interactions.  The defense then began to mount their case with their own batch of witnesses.  First up was Donna Norris, a Communications and Property Evidence Manager for the Beverly Hills Police Department.  She testified that the 911 call placed the day of MJs death lasted 46 seconds from a cell phone.  Next, the defense questioned LAPD surveillance specialist Alexander Supaull, who handed over surveillance footage showing MJ arriving home for the last time at around 12:45 AM on June 25, 2009.  No other footage was available to detail who came in and out of the house, which the defense planned to use as a possible loophole for evidence tampering.   LAPD Detectives Dan Myers and Orlando Martinez testified separately that Alberto Alvarez never divulged putting away vials, bottles or IV bags at Murray’s request when he was questioned about MJs death.  Two months afterward Alvarez mentioned the propofol. Later, Dr. Allan Metzger, claimed MJ – a patient since the 1990s – begged him for IV drugs to help treat insomnia in April 2009.  Dr. Metzger never acquiesced and would not for any amount of money!   The following morning, nurse practitioner Cherilyn Lee took the stand.  She testified during the preliminary hearing how MJ asked her for propofol during his course of treatment in 2009.  MJ advised Lee of his constant drowsiness, which might have been attributed to sleep deprivation caused by copious amounts of Red Bull.  Lee attempted to recommend natural sleep products to MJ, but to no effect.  MJ insisted propofol was needed to help him sleep.  Lee testified it wasn’t used to quell insomnia, and  moreover, it was unsafe for home environment use.  Though she can prescribe medication she, likewise, chose not to behave like a drug dealer selling drugs for money without regard to even a nominal standard of medical care.

Tuesday, 10/25, Randy Phillips, financier of MJ’s “This Is It” Tour, then took the stand to discuss  31 proposed performances, followed by Brandon Keith Phillips, President and CEO of AEG Live. Judge Pastor ruled any information about the tour could not be brought into evidence.  To round out the day, toxicologist Michael Henson, a tech operations officer at Pacific Toxicology took the stand. Michael Flanagan questioned him about urine collected from the scene in Michael’s bedroom and the autopsy for traces of lorazepam, its half life and elimination rate.  Cross examination established that while the Defense’s testing was being performed, Dr. Stephen Shafer had asked the company who tested the urine for the information and the methodology used, but no response was received until it seemed likely the court would be involved.  Wednesday, 10/26, five of Dr. Murray’s patients (some going as far back as 2002) described their positive experiences with his care.  One patient, Gerry Causey,  went so far as to approach Murray to shake his hand and place a kiss on his head, but not before Judge Pastor admonished him with “no, that’s not necessary.”  Thursday, 10/27, Dr. Robert Waldman testified about MJ and 200 mg of the pain killer Demerol at each visit to his dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, for botox and anti-perspiration treatments.  He quantified this as “unusually large,” and could qualify him as being an addict because of this dependency.  Waldman also said MJ could have been suffering from withdrawal symptoms which include insomnia. Waldman and Defense Attorney Robert Walgren had a tense exchange involving the amount of hours Waldman engages in dialysis work; under intense scrutiny, Walgren admitted he was not board certified in addiction medicine by his softened stance on classifying MJ as an addict.  Towards the end of the day, anesthesiologist (and propofol expert) Dr. Paul White testified that, as an alternative to an IV, lollipops laced with propofol may be an effective way to sedate patients, since the anesthetic could be absorbed through tissues in the mouth.  White agreed with Shafer saying propofol couldn’t be absorbed through the stomach, and he only speculated drinking it could have caused his death.

Friday, 10/28 and Monday, 10/31, Dr. White maintained MJ killed himself by self-injecting propofol via catheter in his leg, and stated evidence on scene suggests Murray was responsible for a small, non-fatal Propofol injection;  according to him, no evidence gathered on scene or in Murray’s police interview proved Murray hooked MJ up to a propofol IV drip the day he died, eventhough Murray admitted doing so in the weeks before the pop star’s death.  After a discussion regarding the legal definition of “standard of care” White agreed Murray deviated regarding his treatment of MJ on the day he died.  Upon questioning by the prosecution,  Dr. White confirmed he neither administered propofol in a home setting, nor had he ever heard of it being done before, or, since Murray.  If he were in that situation, then he stated he would have called 911 immediately.  White was fined $1000.00 for contempt of court for disobeying an order by Judge Pastor.  Once White stepped down, Murray told Judge Pastor he would not be taking the stand in his own defense.  Tuesday, 11/1, Dr. Shafer was briefly recalled to reiterate his testimony about how Murray probably left an IV propofol drip running into MJ’s veins after his heart stopped.  Shafer refuted White’s testimony regarding levels of the drug found in Jackson’s urine.  Thursday, 11/3, contentious closing arguments from both the prosecution and defense were heard, culminating with Judge Pastor’s final post trial instructions to the jury.

Today the jury reached its verdict: GUILTY OF INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER.  RIP Michael Jackson.  Californians have spoken loud and clear with this verdict to those who facilitate fatal drug use, especially those we place in positions of trust, like doctors.  Let’s pray the court respects this jury’s decision, unlike the Anna Nicole Smith case.  My opinion is that Judge Michael Pastor will do just that based on his record of no nonsense in this trial.

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