An expert on the powerful anaesthetic blamed for Michael Jackson’s death hinted he disagreed with prosecutors’ theories in the case against the singer’s personal doctor.
Dr Paul White was testifying for Dr Conrad Murray, who has denied involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death in 2009.
Dr White said he reviewed reports by more than a dozen experts and would not expect Jackson to have died from the drugs that Murray told police he gave the singer.
Murray was giving Jackson the anaesthetic propofol as a sleep aid.
A prosecution expert says Murray probably gave Jackson propofol at a higher dose than he told police, then left the room.
Dr White said he could not justify the conduct if that happened, but he is expected to present an alternative theory.
Yesterday lawyers for Murray had sought to shift blame to another doctor and a different drug, calling addiction expert Dr Robert Waldman to say Jackson, 50, was hooked on Demerol in the months before his death.
They suggested the singer’s withdrawal from the painkiller triggered the insomnia that Murray was trying to resolve when he gave Jackson propofol.
Murray’s lawyers claim the ultimate blame lies with Jackson himself, but they also sought to implicate his dermatologist in the drug-laced path to his death.
Dr White, who returns to the stand at Los Angeles Superior Court today, said he was “perplexed” after reading documents in the case about whether Murray administered the propofol dose that killed Jackson.
He noted that Murray described to police a very low dose of the drug. If that was true, Dr White said: “I would not have expected Michael Jackson to have died.”
There was no mention of propofol during the evidence of Dr Waldman, who said he studied the records of Dr Arnold Klein, Jackson’s long-time dermatologist, in concluding the star was dependent on Demerol.
Records showed Dr Klein used Demerol on Jackson repeatedly for procedures to enhance his appearance.
No Demerol was discovered in the singer’s system when he died, but propofol was found throughout his body.
Dr Waldman relied on Dr Klein’s records from March 2009 until days before Jackson died.
Under questioning by Murray’s lead lawyer, Ed Chernoff, Dr Waldman said: “I believe there is evidence that he (Jackson) was dependent on Demerol, possibly.”
Dr Klein has emerged as the missing link in the trial, with the defence raising his name at every turn and the judge ruling he may not be called as a witness because his care of Jackson is not at issue. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
But Dr Klein’s handwritten notes on his visits with Jackson were introduced through Dr Waldman, who said Dr Klein was giving Jackson unusually high doses of Demerol for four months – from March through June, 2009 – with the last shots coming three days before the singer’s death.
Over three days in April, the records showed Jackson received 775 milligrams of Demerol along with small doses of the sedative Versed. Dr Waldman’s evidence showed Dr Klein, who was also Jackson’s long-time friend, was giving the singer huge doses of the powerful drug at the same time Murray was giving Jackson propofol to sleep.
“This is a large dose for an opioid for a dermatology procedure in an office,” Dr Waldman said.
He told jurors the escalating doses showed Jackson had developed a tolerance to the drug and was probably addicted. He said a withdrawal symptom from the drug was insomnia.
Several prosecution experts have said the propofol self-administration defence was improbable, and a key expert said he ruled it out completely, arguing the more likely scenario was that Murray gave Jackson a much higher dose than he has acknowledged.
Jackson had complained of insomnia as he prepared for a series of comeback concerts and was receiving the anaesthetic and sedatives from Murray to help him sleep.
Murray’s police interview indicates he didn’t know Jackson was being treated by Dr Klein and was receiving other drugs.
In response to questions from a prosecutor, Dr Waldman said some of the symptoms of Demerol withdrawal were the same as those seen in patients withdrawing from the sedatives lorazepam and diazepam. Murray had been giving Jackson both drugs.
Dr White is expected to be the final defence witness.
Dr White and Dr Waldman do not necessarily have to convince jurors that Jackson gave himself the fatal dose, but merely provide them with enough reasonable doubt about the prosecution’s case against Murray.