A bodyguard testified today that he saw a doctor charged over Michael Jackson’s death grab a handful of vials and put them in a bag during frantic efforts to revive the King of Pop.
Alberto Alvarez was the first security guard to reach the bedroom where prosecutors say Dr Conrad Murray administered a fatal dose of the anaesthetic propofol to Jackson on June 25 2009.
A tearful Mr Alvarez, 34, said he was frozen at the sight of Jackson on the bed with his eyes and mouth open. Murray ordered him to place several vials the doctor had scooped up into a brown canvas bag before he was told to call an ambulance, the bodyguard said.
“He just grabbed a handful of bottles, or vials, and he instructed me to put them in a bag,” Mr Alvarez said.
The testimony could provide key corroboration to the prosecutors’ argument that Murray’s actions demonstrated “an extreme deviation from the standard of care” by administering propofol without the proper equipment, and also concealing it and botching efforts to resuscitate the singer.
Deputy District Attorney David Walgren said yesterday in his opening statement that Murray waited as long as 21 minutes before paramedics were called. Jackson died before help was summoned, the prosecutor said.
At the end of the preliminary hearing, which was expected to go into next week, a judge will rule whether there is enough evidence for Murray to stand trial on an involuntary manslaughter charge in the pop star’s death. He could face up to four years in prison if convicted.
The Houston cardiologist has pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys have contended he did not give Jackson anything that should have killed the singer.
Yesterday, Jackson friend and choreographer Kenny Ortega described how the singer appeared sick during a rehearsal six days before his death and left early. The rehearsals were for a series of planned comeback concerts in London.
Mr Ortega said after that incident, Murray “was upset that I had sent Michael home the night before and didn’t allow him to rehearse”.
The hearing, attended by international media and fans, provided another glimpse into the private life of Jackson, a one-time superstar who grew reclusive after his acquittal on child molestation charges in 2005.
Murray was providing Jackson propofol roughly six times a week since being hired as the singer’s personal physician in May 2009, Mr Walgren said.
Another bodyguard, Faheem Muhammad, testified that he saw Jackson lying on his bed. He described Murray as panicked and said the doctor asked whether anyone knew CPR.
The hearing was expected to include testimony from police, coroner’s officials and forensic experts who will describe the mix of sedatives found in Jackson’s system.
Preliminary hearings have a lower burden of proof than trials, and defence attorneys rarely present a case. Murray’s attorney, Ed Chernoff, did not make an opening statement.