LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Prosecutors were close to wrapping up their case in the manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor after a top state witness on Thursday slammed the physician’s treatment of the late pop star.
Prosecutors, who called their last witness on Thursday, claim that Dr. Conrad Murray was negligent in caring for Jackson and is responsible for his death, which medical examiners said resulted from an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol and sedatives.
Murray has admitted giving Jackson propofol on June 25, 2009, the day the singer died, but maintains he is innocent, and his attorneys have said Jackson gave himself an extra, fatal dose of the drug he called his “milk” due to insomnia.
Prosecution witness Dr. Nader Kamangar, a sleep medicine expert, said Murray was reckless to give Jackson infusions of propofol and sedatives to get the singer to sleep after a strenuous rehearsal for a series of concerts in London.
“Mr. Jackson was receiving very inappropriate therapy in the home setting, receiving very potent sedatives including propofol, midazolam and lorazepam without appropriate monitoring by Dr. Murray, and ultimately this cocktail was a recipe for disaster in a patient that had underlying dehydration,” Kamangar said in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Several doctors have criticized Murray’s decision to give Jackson propofol, which can stop a patient from breathing, at home where there was not enough medical staff or life-saving equipment on hand.
But under cross examination, Kamangar, who was among a number of witnesses to slam Murray’s treatment of Jackson, said a reliance on the painkiller Demerol could have led to insomnia, which Murray was trying to treat.
Kamangar also said his review of Jackson’s records showed the singer received Demerol from Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein. The defense wants to show Jackson was dependent on drugs to help him sleep and Murray was simply dealing with problems caused by other doctors.
In opening arguments three weeks ago, lead defense attorney Ed Chernoff told jurors that in the months before his death, Jackson visited Klein’s office as many as two to three times a week. “Dr Arnold Klein addicted Michael Jackson to Demerol,” Chernoff said at the time.
Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor has denied a defense request to call Klein as a witness, ruling his testimony would be insufficiently relevant. Klein could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Prosecutors said on Thursday that Dr. Steven Shafer, an expert on propofol, would be their last of more than 30 witnesses. He testified briefly on Thursday and his testimony is to resume Monday.
Murray’s attorneys told the judge they plan to call 22 witnesses, including two experts, and the defense could rest their case by the end of next week.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Paul Simao