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Will Defense Claim Jackson Gave Himself Propofol Work?

October 26, 2011

Dr. Murray's defense team continues to deny he is responsible for Michael Jackson's defense, claiming Jackson gave himself the fatal dose of propofol. The latest evidence offered by the defense at trial came from two witnesses. Jackson's former nutritionist (and nurse) testified Jackson often discussed his need for propofol to sleep. Jackson's former concert promoter testified about the demands of Jackson's upcoming tour. As a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, I continue to be fascinated by how this case is being tried.

Dr. Murray is on trial in California charged with involuntary manslaughter for the death of pop singer Michael Jackson in 2009. The prosecution claims Dr. Murray recklessly provided the anesthetic propofol for sleep, which ultimately resulted in Jackson's death. The defense denies Dr. Murray acted recklessly and, in either event, denies Dr. Murray's actions resulted in Jackson's death. If convicted, Dr. Murray faces up to four years in prison.

Although Dr. Murray claims Jackson killed himself by giving himself propofol while Dr. Murray temporarily left Jackson's room, the defense does not seem to have any direct evidence of this claim. Instead, the defense is relying on circumstantial evidence. The defense hopes the jury will piece together various evidence to create reasonable doubt on whether Jackson gave himself the fatal dose of propofol. However, this theory is problematic. If the jury concludes it does not matter whether Jackson gave himself propofol because, ultimately, Dr. Murray should have never brought propofol into Jackson's home, then Dr. Murray could still be found guilty. Consistent with this theory, prosecution experts earlier testified they still believe Dr. Murray is responsible for Jackson's death regardless of whether Jackson gave himself the fatal dose. They reason it was extreme medical malpractice to give propofol in a home for sleep purposes.

The latest evidence offered by the defense came from nurse and nutritionist Cherilyn Lee. She testified that, months before Jackson's death, Jackson would regularly discuss his need to use propofol for sleep. She testified that attempts to dissuade Jackson's from using propofol were effectively ignored by Jackson

The defense also called to the stand concert promoter, Randall Phillips. He testified he had no intention of cancelling any concerts for Jackson's "This Is It" tour, despite the fact Jackson missed a number of rehearsals and, at times, appeared unprepared. The way Jackson's contract was written, it would have been very difficult for Jackson to legally back out of shows according to Phillips. This testimony, along with the testimony from other witnesses, is being offered by the defense to show Jackson was under tremendous pressure; as a result of this pressure, the defense suggests Jackson was increasingly willing to take desperate measures to get sleep--which included giving himself propofol.

Sources Used:

Reuters Website, Nurse Says Jackson Sought Anesthetic For Sleep, October 25, 2011.

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