LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A nurse said on Tuesday that Michael Jackson sought her help to get the anesthetic propofol as a sleep aid, but she could not persuade the pop star to avoid the drug that ultimately led to his death in 2009.
Nurse Cherilyn Lee, a nutritionist who worked with Jackson, testified for the defense in the widely watched trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, who has been accused of involuntary manslaughter in the singer’s death.
Earlier Tuesday, defense attorneys told the judge they would not call Murray to the stand to testify on his own behalf, preferring to use witnesses such as Lee to show Jackson was drug dependent and highly motivated to obtain propofol.
Lee told jurors she tried to give Jackson natural remedies to deal with his insomnia. But in April 2009, just over two months before Jackson died of an overdose of propofol and sedatives on June 25, he asked her about the surgical anesthetic and said it was the only thing that helped him sleep.
“‘I know this will knock me out, as soon as it gets into my vein I am knocked out and I am asleep,’” Lee quoted Jackson as telling her on that date.
Lee said she researched propofol and learned of its significant side effects, and that it was only supposed to be administered for surgery or in a hospital setting.
She told Jackson the drug could lead to him forgetting his singing lines, and that it was not to be administered in a home setting, but that the singer seemed unpersuaded.
Lee broke down in tears when she related how Jackson responded to her warnings about the drug.
“He said, ‘I will be OK, I only need someone to monitor me with the equipment when I sleep,’” she said.
Also on Tuesday, Murray’s lead attorney Ed Chernoff failed to mention his client’s name when he listed witnesses who would take the stand, prompting Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor to say he would later inform Murray of his right to testify, even if that conflicted with the defense strategy.
Chernoff asked if the judge was legally obligated to give that guidance. “It’s a requirement under Michael E. Pastor law,” Pastor told the attorney.
Murray could always decide to take the stand against his attorneys’ wishes, but doing so is unlikely even as the defense continues to experience setbacks.
On Monday, Jackson’s longtime physician, Dr. Allan Metzger, testified that the day before the singer asked Lee for propofol, Jackson asked Metzger about an “intravenous sleep medicine,” a possible reference to propofol, which is given intravenously.
Both Metzger and Lee testified that they did not arrange to get propofol for Jackson. Metzger said he was unsure if Jackson was specifically asking for propofol or some other drug.
Murray began working as Jackson’s in-house physician in April 2009, prosecutors said. They presented invoices from a Las Vegas pharmacy showing he ordered propofol as early as April 6 of that year.
He has admitted to giving Jackson nearly daily doses of propofol for sleep at the singer’s Los Angeles mansion, but his attorneys argue that on the day the singer died, Jackson gave himself an extra, fatal dose.
The doctor has pleaded not guilty and faces up to four years in jail if convicted.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Philip Barbara