September 30, 2011 / 1:07 AM / 6 years ago

Judge issues gag order in Jackson death trial

<p>Deputy District Attorney David Walgren (R) holds a bottle of propofol introduced as evidence as he questions Alberto Alvarez (L), one of Michael Jackson's security guards, during Dr. Conrad Murray's trial in the death of pop star Michael Jackson in Los Angeles September 29, 2011. REUTERS/Al Seib/Pool</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The judge in the manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor issued a gag order for attorneys on Friday after a defense counselor appeared on a television show telling details about the case.

The judge’s order came at midday on Friday, the fourth day of the widely-watched trial in which prosecutors are trying to prove that Dr. Conrad Murray is responsible for the drug overdose that led to the pop star’s death on June 25, 2009.

Prosecutors brought to the courtroom paramedics who responded to the call for help, as well as other witnesses, to try to prove that Murray was negligent in his care and covered up Jackson’s use of the anesthetic propofol, which is the principal cause of Jackson’s death.

But the day’s bombshell came with Judge Michael Pastor’s gag order, which followed an appearance by defense attorney Matthew Alford on NBC’s morning chat show “Today.”

“The attorneys for the parties in this case ... are ordered not to comment to anyone outside of their respective teams either directly or indirectly regarding any aspects of this case, whether orally or in writing,” Pastor said in court.

Alford said on “Today” that one witness had changed his testimony several times and declared Jackson was addicted to propofol.

In Friday’s testimony, paramedics who rushed to the singer’s bedside told jurors they were optimistic he might live because they arrived within five minutes of being called. But they soon saw Jackson was unresponsive.

“I knew that we got there very, very quickly. It meant we’d have a good chance of restarting the heart if that was the issue,” said paramedic Richard Senneff.

COLD SKIN, DEAD EYES

But Senneff said that he quickly realized Jackson had been down for more than five minutes. “His skin was very cool to the touch,” Senneff said. “When I took a first glance at him, his eyes, they were open and his pupils were dilated. When I hooked up the EKG machine it was flatlined.”

The call for help was received at 12:22 p.m., paramedics arrived at 12:26 p.m. and made it to Jackson’s bedroom one minute later and worked feverishly to revive Jackson.

Senneff testified that he was on the phone with doctors at a nearby hospital and they recommended at 12:57 p.m. that Jackson be declared dead. Murray demanded that Jackson nevertheless be taken to the hospital for further treatment.

The pop star was pronounced dead later that day at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angles.

In trying to prove Murray’s negligence, prosecutors have spent much of this first week creating a timeline between when Jackson stopped breathing and Murray called for help. During those precious minutes, prosecutors claim Murray was trying to cover up evidence of Jackson’s use of the anesthetic propofol, which ultimately caused the singer’s death.

Earlier in the day, jurors heard a voicemail Murray left for one of his heart patients at 11:49 a.m. PDT (2:49 p.m. EDT) on June 25, 2009 -- seven minutes before he is believed to have found Jackson unresponsive in his bedroom.

Prosecutors seek to prove Murray failed to properly monitor Jackson after giving him a dose of propofol. They claim that instead of watching Jackson in the singer’s bedroom, Murray was busy on his cellphone before discovering at around 11:56 a.m. that the “Thriller” singer had stopped breathing.

Murray admits administering propofol but denies involuntary manslaughter. His lawyers have argued that Jackson caused his own death by giving himself an extra dose of propofol, mixed with prescription sedatives, without Murray’s knowledge.

Murray faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

Witnesses earlier this week described frantic scenes at Jackson’s house on the morning of his sudden death, when the 50 year-old singer was found lifeless in bed and hooked up to an IV machine, a urine collection device and an oxygen feed.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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