MJ: Defence witness painted into corner

2011-10-31 22:28

Los Angeles - Prosecutors on Monday forced an expert defence witness to admit that Michael Jackson's doctor made significant errors when he gave the singer the potent anaesthetic propofol for sleep.

Under aggressive cross-examination. Paul White also acknowledged that he had never heard of propofol being administered in a bedroom - as happened in Jackson's case.

White is expected to be the last defence witness in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Conrad Murray.

The propofol expert theorised last week that the 50-year-old singer likely injected himself with a fatal dose of the drug without Murray's knowledge, causing his own death on June 25 2009.

Propofol, normally used to sedate patients for surgery, was ruled to be the chief cause of Jackson's death.

Murray told police that he gave 25mg of the drug to Jackson at the singer's Los Angeles mansion.

"Have you ever administered propofol in someone's bedroom?" prosecutor David Walgren asked White.

"No I have not," White said.

"Have you ever heard of someone doing this prior to this case?" Walgren asked.

"No," White said.

White also admitted that Murray deviated from commonly accepted medical standards on the day Jackson died and over the roughly two months earlier, when Murray was giving the singer daily doses of propofol for sleep.

For instance, White said that when he administers propofol he has a heart monitor and a blood pressure cuff at the patient's bedside.

Prior testimony has indicated that Murray did not use those pieces of equipment on the day Jackson died.

Walgren asked White if Murray had violated the physicians' oath to "do no harm" in giving Jackson propofol.

"I think he was providing a service to Mr Jackson that he had requested and in fact insisted on," White said.

Murray told police that he monitored Jackson for an unspecified amount of time after giving the singer propofol, which can stop a person from breathing.

Relatively small dose

White said that after administering a relatively small dose of 25 milligrams of propofol, it would be acceptable for a physician to leave a patient's bedside after 15 to 30 minutes.

But when Walgren cited Murray's statement to police that Jackson liked to "push the propofol" into himself, White said that in those circumstances he would not leave the room.

Murray told police he left Jackson alone for two minutes to use the bathroom. But phone records also reveal that he was using his cellphone for over 45 minutes after the time he says he gave Jackson propofol.

White said he has been paid over $11 000 by Murray's defence team. In contrast, the prosecution's propofol expert, Steven Shafer, told jurors earlier this month that he took no payment for his testimony.

In an unusual development, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor at one point excused the jury to angrily admonish White, after the propofol expert repeatedly made passing references to two conversations he had with Murray, details of which were not entered as evidence in the trial.

Murray, who has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, or gross negligence, faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison if convicted.