From The Bald Truth, (c) www.artharris.com, all rights reserved
From a gruesome photo of his dead body to an audio tape his doctor made of the slurring superstar, high on something, prosecutors in the Conrad Murray manslaughter trial portray Michael Jackson’s doctor as callous, greedy and negligent in treating the pop star’s chronic insomnia with a powerful anesthetic called propofol in 2009 as he was preparing for an ambitious world tour.
That’s what killed him, prosecutors said in gut-wrenching opening argument Tuesday, powerful and damning, detailing how the Houston cardiologist demanded $5 million to close up his money losing practice to travel and care for Jackson as his solo patient, then settled on $150,000 a month when rebuffed.
Only he never signed the contract, and never was paid, his late manager told me, but still proceeded to give Jackson what he wanted–the powerful anesthetic propofol–so he could get sleep that was eluding him, affecting his ability to rehearse and perhaps threatening his “This Is It” Tour.
(Hear Jackson slurring on audio tape made by Dr. Murray on the next page)
It was indeed “It” for Jackson, and this may be it for Murray and his medical practice–UNLESS his silver tongued Houston lawyer Ed Chernoff can convince the jury what he says is true: that Murray loved Jackson and was trying to ween the superstar patient OFF propofol, but his addiction to demerol, courtesy of Beverly Hills dermatologist Arnie Klein, was a roadblock that sent him into chills, shakes and withdrawals that caused him to miss several rehearsals.
He felt the stress, said Chernoff, who claimed it was Jackson, not Murray, who self administered a fatal dose of the powerful drug that suppresses respiratory function–when Murray was out of his bedroom.
According to Chernoff, Murray had administered several other benzodiazapines to try to lull the supestar into sleep, but they weren’t working when Jackson demanded propofol. With a noon wakeup call, Jackson had been up all night, when at about 10:45 am Murray gave him a small does of 2.5 ccs of the milky white liquid by IV. He said vital signs were fine, when he left the room, returning to find a desperate Jackson unconscious from an apparent overdose he’d given himself.
What will have to be explained is that propofol is a fast acting anesthetic, so if Jackson shot himself up, he would have fallen asleep in an instant, likely dropping the syringe. Or if it was given as an IV drip, which doctors familiar with the drug tell me is highly irregular unless someone needs to be kept under after surgery, how did Jackson speed it up? Or if he drank it as some claim, was he aware ingesting it orally has no affect?
Or, might Jackson have had so much fear and performance anxiety, he pulled his own plug, or was he just another groggy addict suffering judgment lapses from his drug combos and made a fatal mistake?
That will be for the jury to decide, but bottom line, they will have to grapple with the fact, under best medical practices and standards we will be hearing more about, Dr. Murray should not have turned Jackson’s bedroom into his own sleep clinic, using propofol. Only a hospital setting makes the drug safe, with an anesthesiologist checking vital signs, including heart, breathing and blood pressure, and ready to use oxygen, and a respirator to resucitate if a patient stops breathing as Jackson did.
Prosecutors said Murray had a small device to measure oxygen absorption and a bottle of oxygen, but it was empty, and there was no respirator in the house, and lots of other drugs by his bedside…
What do you think happened?
What we haven’t heard is Jackson’s history of painkiller addiction, stemmimg from the Pepsi commercial where he suffered burns, and a lifetime of doctor shopping, and enough money to build a wall between him and those who might try to help him detox, or get into rehab.
Why didn’t Murray just say, “No!” to Jackson’s propofol demands? How had he found over the years, as those close to Jackson have told me, did he find it so easy to find doctors here and around the world to give him whatever drugs he wanted?
“It’s hard to tell a powerful billionaire like Michael Jackson “no,” his former lawyer, Brian Oxman said in one HLN interview.
As a dejected Murray blotted away tears Tuesday, his awyer, Ed Chernoff, mounted a moving defense of a doctor he said was trying to save his friend’s life by using other drugs to wean him slowly off propofol in a bizarre bedroom clinic medical boards would surely decry.
It’s unclear when Murray recorded a slurring Jackson on his cell phone, or why? But Chernoff did claim Jackson couldn’t sleep because insomnia is a side effect of a drug another Beverly Hills doctor was giving him — demerol.
Might we hear witnesses who could describe Jackson as speaking like that after an injection of demerol at Arnie Klein’s office, as Chernoff maintained.
I’ve interviewed former bodyguards who describe Jackson “out of it” and stumbling along the sidwalk after a visit to the dermatologist, waiting for his ride home. And Wednesday, Chernoff grilled an AEG executive about Arnie Klein. He said he’d never told Murray about Klein, and demerol shots, but had noticed on a prior concert Jackson slurring words after a visit to Klein’s office.
Greedy or loving? Negligent or caring?
The jury heard why prosecutors want Murray convicted of manslaughter–for using copious amounts of propofol as a sleeping aid, a powerful anesthetic designed only for use in hospitals, and why Murray says he’s only guilty of caring too much and trying too hard to save his friend from a terrible addiction and rescue his tour by helping Jackson sleep.
If he was indeed detoxing Jackson, was there any way for him to know, demerol withdrawal might kick in when it apparently did? Klein won’t be allowed to testify, nor any of Jackson’s past cavalcade of accomodating doctors. But Chernoff says his records will be admitted showing giant doses of demerol.
Who do you think is “winning” in court, and why?