Defense To Highlight Positives Of Jackson Doctor

After weeks of hearing prosecutors and witnesses cast the physician charged in Michael Jackson’s death as a bad doctor, defense attorneys will shift the case to some of Dr. Conrad Murray’s positive traits as the case nears its close.

Murray’s defense team plans to call up to five character witnesses Wednesday who will likely speak about the Houston-based cardiologist’s care and life-saving abilities. The attorneys did not name the witnesses, but they are expected to be Murray’s patients.

The flurry of character witnesses come as defense attorneys wind down their case. They told a judge Tuesday that after the character witnesses, they will only call two experts to try to counter prosecution experts who said Murray acted recklessly by giving Jackson the anesthetic propofol as a sleep aid.

Defense attorneys could rest their case Thursday. They have already called nine witnesses, including a doctor and nurse practitioner who treated Jackson but refused his requests to help him obtain either an intravenous sleep aid or propofol.

Murray, 58, has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He faces up to four years behind bars and the loss of his medical license if convicted.

His attorneys contend Jackson was desperate for sleep and gave himself the fatal dose of propofol when his doctor left the room. They attempted to argue that Jackson would have been indebted to concert promoter AEG Live for nearly $40 million if his shows were canceled, but a judge blocked any mention of the figure to the jury Tuesday.

Instead, jurors heard from two witnesses who knew Jackson and described their interactions with the singer in the months before his death.

Nurse Cherilyn Lee testified about trying to help Jackson gain more energy in early 2009 to prepare for rehearsals for his planned series of comeback concerts. She said the singer complained he couldn’t sleep, and on Easter Sunday asked her to help him obtain Diprivan, a brand name for propofol.

Lee, at times tearful, said she initially didn’t know about the drug. But after asking a doctor about it and reading a reference guide, Lee said she tried to convince Jackson it was too dangerous to use in his bedroom.

Photo: AP Photo
Cherilyn Lee wipes her eyes during testimony at the Conrad Murray involuntary manslaughter trial in Los Angeles.

“He told me that doctors have told him it was safe,” Lee testified of Jackson’s request for the anesthetic. “I said no doctor is going to do this in your house.”

The singer, however, insisted that he would be safe as long as someone monitored him, she said.

By Murray’s own admission, he left Jackson’s bedside on the morning of his death. When he returned, Jackson was unresponsive, according to his interview with police two days after Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009.

The physician said he only left Jackson’s bedside for two minutes, although his own attorneys have suggested it might have been longer. Phone records show Murray made or received several calls in the hour before Murray summoned help.

Lee acknowledged that she told detectives that she had told Jackson, “No one who cared or had your best interest at heart would give you this.”

After refusing to help Jackson obtain propofol, she never saw the singer again.

Another defense witness, AEG Live President and CEO Randy Phillips, said Jackson appeared to have total confidence in Murray during meetings in early June, just a weeks before the “This Is It” concerts were to debut in London.

Jackson had missed some rehearsals and there were complaints from the show’s choreographer that the singer didn’t seem focused. A meeting was convened to discuss Jackson’s health, and Murray reassured Phillips and others that the singer was healthy and would be able to perform.

“It was very obvious that Michael had great trust” in Murray, Phillips said.

Phillips said he attended Jackson’s final rehearsal and was impressed.

“I had goose bumps,” he said, adding that wasn’t a typical reaction. “I am as cynical as you can be about this business.”

After the rehearsal, Phillips said he walked Jackson to his vehicle, which was waiting to take him to the rented mansion. “He said, ‘You got me here. Now I’m ready. I can take it from here,’“ Phillips recounted.

By the time Jackson and security arrived at the home, Murray had already arrived at the house and was waiting to help the singer get to sleep.