Star witness for Jackson doc sanctioned by judge
November 17, 2011
LOS ANGELES (AP) – A scientist who was the star defense witness in the trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor was sanctioned Wednesday by the trial judge and fined $250 for violating a court order during his testimony.
Dr. Paul White, a pioneer in the use of the anesthetic propofol, said he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong when he told jurors the judge had forbidden him to testify about conversations with Dr. Conrad Murray.
Murray’s lawyer J. Michael Flanagan argued at Wednesday’s hearing that White was inexperienced as a witness. But prosecutor David Walgreen accused White of purposely trying to sabotage the case.
“I had no idea your honor had told me not to go into this area,” White told the judge. “I apologize profusely.”
White portrayed himself as a novice at testifying.
“This is not something I do for a living,” he said. “I did my best to answer questions as truthfully and honestly as I could.”
Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said his instructions to White and the lawyers were clear and repeated many times in chambers and in open court. He said White openly disobeyed.
Flanagan replied by criticizing the judge’s rulings during the trial and said, “You didn’t give me an opportunity to explain to him in more detail how you felt about the situation.”
The judge snapped, “It’s not about me, Mr. Flanagan.”
White drew frequent prosecution objections during his testimony on Oct. 31 when he seemed to be referring to things Murray told him in confidence.
Pastor told White outside the jury’s presence to stop trying to sneak in references to private conversations he had with Murray. The witness had suggested his opinions were partially based on what Murray told him, but those talks were not submitted as evidence.
“It’s deliberate and I don’t like it,” Pastor said at the time. “It’s not going to happen again.”
But it did, when White told jurors: “I’d like to talk to you about this, but the judge told me I couldn’t.”
At that point, Pastor threatened to find the doctor in contempt of court and fine him $1,000. He changed his mind Wednesday and issued a civil sanction of $250. He gave White until Dec. 16 to pay the fine or appeal.
Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death, is in jail awaiting sentencing on Nov. 29.
Outside court, White told reporters he was disappointed by his experience during the trial.
“I think any fine at all is inappropriate,” he said. “I didn’t think I did anything wrong.”
AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this story.