LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An expert defense witness suggested on Monday that Michael Jackson could have risen from his bed, picked up a syringe left by his doctor and given himself a fatal dose of a powerful anesthetic in 2009.
But the testimony by Dr. Paul White in the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray was ridiculed by prosecutors in an aggressive cross-examination of the final witness for the defense.
In a damaging day for Murray, who has pleaded not guilty to the involuntary manslaughter of Jackson, White was forced to acknowledge he would never agree to give propofol to a patient in a bedroom to treat insomnia, as Murray has admitted doing.
Propofol, normally used to sedate patients before surgery, was ruled the chief cause of Jackson’s death.
“It’s something that no amount of money would convince me to accept or take on as a responsibility,” White said.
Administering propofol for insomnia is “a complete off-label use” of the drug that “had not been studied,” White said.
White, an expert on propofol, said that after Murray gave Jackson a relatively small dose of 25 milligrams of the drug, he might have walked out of the room and left a syringe with another 25 milligrams of the agent that Jackson called his “milk.” Neither side in the case has said where a syringe might have been located.
Murray’s attorneys have argued during the five-week-old trial that Jackson may have “self-administered” propofol, but they have until now provided few details.
But an incredulous prosecutor cited prior testimony about how Jackson was lying in bed on June 25, 2009, wearing a urine-collecting device called a “condom catheter” and having taken several sedatives.
“And so Michael Jackson is walking around, wheeling an IV stand, attached to a condom catheter and Conrad Murray is somewhere else on the phone?” prosecutor David Walgren asked White. “It’s a possible scenario,” White responded.
The singer might have self-injected through a port on an IV line that Murray had installed for him, White said.
Prosecution witnesses last week presented a scenario under which Murray placed Jackson on an intravenous drip of propofol after the initial injection, as he had done in about two months of prior nightly propofol treatments.
White also cited phone records that show Murray was on the phone for about 45 minutes after the time he told police he gave Jackson propofol. Murray told police he was only out of the room for two minutes.
Prosecution witnesses have testified that Murray was not properly monitoring Jackson, in a bid to bolster the charge of involuntary manslaughter, or gross negligence, against the physician.
White himself admitted on Monday that he would have not left Jackson’s bedside since, as Walgren said, the singer had confessed he liked to “push the propofol” into himself.
In a further blow for White, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor fined him $1,000 on Monday for violating an order not to mention his discussions with Murray, which were not entered as evidence in the case.
White also told the court that he had been paid over $11,000 for his testimony by the defense team.
Murray faces up to four years in prison if convicted. The defense is expected to wrap up its case later on Monday, or on Tuesday
Editing by Jill Serjeant and Cynthia Osterman