LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A coroner in the Michael Jackson death case on Tuesday testified that even if the pop star self-administered the drug that killed him, the doctor caring for the singer still would have committed a homicide.
The testimony of Dr. Christopher Rogers, chief of forensic medicine for the Los Angeles County Coroner, could damage a possible plan by defense lawyers to claim it was the singer who caused his own death, not their client, Dr. Conrad Murray.
In questioning on the stand, Rogers said the simple fact that Murray gave Jackson the powerful anesthetic propofol without proper precautions constituted homicide.
Roger’s testimony came on the sixth day of a preliminary hearing into whether Murray should be tried for involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s June 2009 drug overdose death.
Involuntary manslaughter is defined as an unintentional killing without malice. It is a lesser charge than murder.
Coroners have ruled Jackson’s death was a homicide due mainly to the use of propofol, and prosecutors claim Murray, who was caring for Jackson when he died, was negligent in administering the drug and in watching over his patient.
Homicide refers to the killing of another person and encompasses everything from premeditated murder to involuntary manslaughter.
The doctor has pleaded not guilty, and defense attorneys have raised a question of whether Jackson killed himself.
On Tuesday, defense lawyer J. Michael Flanagan asked Rogers about injections of the drug, which typically is used in hospitals but which Jackson used at home to sleep.
“If the doctor didn’t put the propofol in Mr. Jackson, it’s not a homicide is it?” Flanagan asked.
“Based on the quality of the medical care, I would still call this a homicide even if the doctor did not administer the propofol to Mr. Jackson,” Rogers said. “The fact that there was propofol there in the first place — in other words, this is not a usual setting to administer propofol — and if there was propofol there, it was there to be administered to Mr. Jackson and so the doctor should be prepared for adverse effects.”
Flanagan asked if Murray should have been prepared for Mr. Jackson self-administering propofol?
“If that’s a possibility, yes,” Rogers replied.
Rogers said in his testimony that medical examiners believed, based on the evidence, that Murray was the one who administered the propofol to Jackson.
In past court sessions, prosecutors have established that Murray ordered large quantities of the anesthetic along with other drugs including the sedative lorazepam that was also found in Jackson’s body.
Using testimony of Jackson’s security team and telephone records, prosecutors also have tried to paint a picture of Murray being neglectful of Jackson while he was on the drug and hiding evidence of propofol’s use between the time Murray found the singer not breathing and when paramedics were called.
The preliminary hearing is expected to wrap up this week and afterward, a judge will decide if Murray should stand trial on the charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Murray, a cardiologist, was hired to care for Jackson while the singer prepared for a series of comeback concerts.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte, Greg McCune and Will Dunham