Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Defense case begins for doctor in Michael Jackson’s death

LOS ANGELES — Defense attorneys for the doctor accused of killing Michael Jackson began their case Monday after prosecutors presented a portrait of the physician as the inept, distracted engineer of the King of Pop’s death.

The first defense witnesses were Dona Norris, a records custodian for the Beverly Hills Police Department, who identified time stamps on records of the 911 call received on the day Jackson died.

They also questioned Alexander Supall, a Los Angeles Police Department surveillance expert who retrieved grainy surveillance footage shot outside Jackson’s home on the day of his death.

Supall, told jurors he only collected a few minutes of footage taken around the time Jackson arrived home after a June 25, 2009, rehearsal for his comeback concerts.

The defense, in a conference at the judge’s bench, also made a routine motion for a directed verdict of acquittal for Dr. Conrad Murray, but it was not argued and the judge rejected it, saying he would allow the jury to decide the case.

Defense lawyers have said they will have 15 witnesses but have not publicly revealed whether they will call Murray to testify.

Jurors have heard from the doctor through a more than two-hour interview with police, and it seems unlikely his attorneys would subject their client to what would be blistering questioning from prosecutors.

Prosecutors rested their case earlier in the day after four weeks of testimony from 33 witnesses.

The defense then began its effort to counter damaging testimony that cast Murray as an opportunistic doctor who broke legal, ethical and professional guidelines to satisfy a patient who was paying him $150,000 a month.

Murray, a Houston-based cardiologist, has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Dr. Steven Shafer, an expert on the anesthetic propofol who wove a net of scientific evidence around Murray, was the final prosecution witness. The defense has said it will present testimony from its own propofol expert to counter Shafer’s opinions.

Shafer previously testified that he thinks a propofol overdose killed Jackson. But he said Murray kept no records about how much of the drug he gave the singer.

Under defense cross-examination, Shafer remained steadfast in his position that that Murray was solely responsible for Jackson’s death. He portrayed the doctor as grossly negligent and “clueless” in what to do when his famous patient stopped breathing.

In his last minutes on the stand, Shafer, who had testified for nearly five days, was challenged by defense attorney Ed Chernoff on whether the mathematical models on which he based his conclusions actually applied to the doses of propofol given to Jackson by Murray.

Shafer said his mathematical simulations were difficult because Murray kept no records.

He based his reconstruction on Murray’s police interview in which he said he had been dosing Jackson with the drug nightly for six weeks.

“There is almost no precedent for this amount of propofol exposure,” Shafer said under questioning.

Shafer has said the only possible explanation for Jackson’s death based on the evidence was that Murray put the singer on an IV drip of propofol then left the room after the singer appeared to be asleep.

Shafer never retreated from his position that Murray is solely responsible for Jackson’s death and that the cardiologist committed 17 egregious violations of medical practices that each could have either led to Jackson’s serious injury or death.