October 22, 2011 / 12:57 AM / 7 years ago

Jackson doctor's attorneys challenge drug expert

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Attorneys for Dr. Conrad Murray on Friday challenged a top anesthesiology expert over assumptions he made in a courtroom demonstration on how Murray could have given Michael Jackson a deadly drug infusion.

The cross examination of Dr. Steven Shafer came a day after the expert prosecution witness gave damaging testimony against Murray at his involuntary manslaughter trial in Jackson’s 2009 death from an overdose of the drug propofol and sedatives.

Shafer had set up an IV drip system in court to suggest the way in which Murray might have wrongfully infused the powerful anesthetic propofol into the singer. But defense attorneys on Friday disputed whether such a system was ever used.

“You certainly do consider that what you have claimed occurred in this case is an extraordinary claim?” Ed Chernoff, the lead defense attorney, asked Shafer on the witness stand.

“Not at all,” Shafer said.

But Chernoff did manage to get Shafer to admit that investigators did not find in Jackson’s bedroom a vented IV tube with a plastic spike such as the one Shafer used in his demonstration for jurors.

Shafer testified Murray still could have used one and easily balled up the tube and pocketed it before leaving Jackson’s Los Angeles mansion.

Jurors have heard prior testimony that an IV pole, saline bags and propofol vials were among the items found in Jackson’s bedroom and closet after he died on June 25, 2009.

Murray has admitted that on the day Jackson died he gave the singer a relatively small dose of 25 milligrams of propofol for sleep. Defense attorneys are challenging the prosecution’s argument that Murray could have administered as much as 40 times that amount of the drug afterward through an IV.

Defense attorneys have said Jackson might have given himself an extra, fatal dose of propofol when Murray was out of his bedroom.

Court proceedings on Friday also pointed to a looming duel between Shafer’s testimony and what is expected to come from the defense’s propofol expert, Dr. Paul White, who is scheduled to take the witness stand next week.

Shafer, a professor at Columbia University, said he considers White a friend, but those bonds of friendship appear to be tested by the Murray trial.

On Friday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor scolded White for a media report in which he was quoted as uttering the word “scumbag” in court after a prosecutor aided in Shafer’s IV system demonstration on Thursday.

Pastor, who earlier imposed a gag order for lawyers and witnesses in the trial, told White he had no business making those kinds of comments, and set a November 16 hearing for possible sanctions against the defense expert. “Dr. White knows better,” Pastor said.

Murray, who has pleaded not guilty, faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison if convicted.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Todd Eastham

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