Final witness to testify in MJ trial

2011-10-19 16:22

Los Angeles - The trial of the doctor charged in Michael Jackson's death will resume on Wednesday after days of delay, with jurors hearing from a leading expert on the powerful anaesthetic that authorities contend killed the King of Pop.

Dr Steven Shafer's return to the stand on behalf of the prosecution comes after testimony was halted for three and a half court days. Time off was initially given to accommodate the Columbia University professor's schedule, but his father died and the delay was extended.

Shafer is the prosecution's final witness in its case against Dr Conrad Murray, who has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

A judge cancelled testimony on Tuesday to give defence attorneys time to research new test results conducted by coroner's officials on the level of the sedative lorazepam in Jackson's body.

Murray's attorneys have claimed that lorazepam levels found in the singer's stomach contents suggested he may have taken several pills in the hours before his death without his doctor's knowledge.

Rest its case

Murray has admitted giving Jackson doses of propofol in the pop superstar's bedroom as a sleep aid. Murray's attorneys have said that the amount of propofol their client gave Jackson on the day of his June 2009 death was too small to cause the icon's sudden death at age 50.

Deputy District Attorney David Walgren said on Monday that the new results from the coroner's office show that levels of lorazepam in Jackson's body were lower than the defence claimed and were inconsistent with the theory Murray's attorneys had presented to jurors.

Lead defence attorney Ed Chernoff said on Tuesday that he was seeking additional testing from an independent lab to confirm or disprove the coroner's results, but that it would take several days for the defence to get the answers it needs.

Walgren agreed that he would not raise the issue of the new tests until after the defence team presents its case.

Murray's attorneys will begin calling witnesses on Friday. They plan to call 15 witnesses, who will include police detectives, character witnesses and Randy Phillips, the head of AEG Live, the promoter of Jackson's planned series of comeback concerts.

Chernoff said many of the witnesses will be brief and the defence should rest its case by Wednesday.


Murray's attorneys are also going to call one of Shafer's colleagues, Dr Paul White, as an expert to try to counter the prosecution's case.

Prosecution witnesses have repeatedly faulted Murray for his care of Jackson, noting that his use of propofol as a sleep aid was outside the drug's intended use. They have also faulted Murray for not calling 911 sooner, for botching resuscitation efforts and for lying to paramedics and emergency room doctors about the drugs he had given Jackson.

Two expert witnesses, cardiologist Dr Alon Steinberg and sleep specialist Dr Nader Kamangar, testified last week that Murray's actions were gross deviations from the standard of care.

Shafer briefly began his testimony on Thursday and explained to jurors how he had crafted the warnings and guidelines included with each bottle of propofol - warnings that Walgren said in opening statements Murray had repeatedly ignored.