Jackson doctor trial focuses on final moments
AP Entertainment Writer
LOS ANGELES – The first week of testimony in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray has wrapped up and was centered on his actions the day Michael Jackson died in June 2009.
Jurors have heard from witnesses who were on the scene, including Jackson staffers and paramedics, during the panicked final moments of the pop star’s life.
The first emergency responder to reach Jackson’s bedroom testified Friday that when he arrived he noticed several things that seemed inconsistent.
Paramedic Richard Senneff said that when he arrived he saw Jackson on the floor, eyes open with a surgical cap on his head. His skin was turning blue. Senneff said he asked the sweating, frantic-looking doctor in the room what condition the stricken man had.
“He said, ‘Nothing. He has nothing,”‘ Senneff told jurors. “Simply, that did not add up to me,” Senneff said.
Over the course of the 42 minutes that Los Angeles paramedics tried to revive Jackson, several other things about the room and Murray’s responses seemed inconsistent to Senneff.
After repeated prodding, Senneff testified, Murray revealed a few details about his actions, saying he had only given Jackson a dose of the sedative lorazepam to help him sleep. In addition, there were bottles of medicine on Jackson’s nightstand, and Murray finally offered that he was treating the singer for dehydration and exhaustion.
Senneff said Murray never mentioned that he had also been giving Jackson doses of the anesthetic propofol and other sedatives, a key omission that prosecutors say shows he repeatedly tried to conceal his actions during the struggle to save the pop superstar.
Murray, 58, has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could face up to four years in prison and lose his medical license.
Prosecutors contend the Houston-based cardiologist repeatedly lied to medics and emergency room doctors about medications he had been giving Jackson in the singer’s bedroom. They claim Murray administered a fatal dose of propofol and other sedatives.
Defense lawyers claim Jackson gave himself the fatal dose after his doctor left the room.
Senneff said that within moments three other paramedics arrived and were helping work to revive Jackson. After trying multiple heart-starting medications and other efforts, Jackson was still lifeless.
“Did you ever see any sign of life in Mr. Jackson during the entire time you were attempting to save him,” prosecutor Deborah Brazil asked.
“No I did not,” Senneff said.
Another paramedic dispatched to the room, Martin Blount, agreed. He told jurors that they thought Jackson was dead soon after they arrived in the room.
Blount also said he saw three open bottles of lidocaine on the floor of the room but noted that Murray never mentioned giving Jackson the painkiller. He told jurors he saw the doctor scoop up the vials and drop them in a black bag.
Between the paramedics’ testimony, Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor threatened Murray’s lawyers with a contempt charge over an interview the law partner of lead defense counsel Ed Chernoff did Friday with “The Today Show.” In the interview, attorney Matt Alford criticized a key prosecution witness, Jackson’s bodyguard Alberto Alvarez.
Alvarez testified Thursday that Murray ordered him to place vials of medication in a bag before calling 911. Defense attorneys have repeatedly challenged his account.
Prosecutors complained and Pastor watched the interview during a break. He told attorneys he was shocked and had watched the interview “with my mouth open.” The interview was done hours after the judge warned attorneys not to comment about the case outside court.
He ordered Alford to appear for a contempt hearing on Nov. 15 and described him as a witness after Chernoff told Pastor to hold him in contempt instead of his partner.
All the discussions about the interview were held outside the presence of jurors, who are under strict orders to avoid media coverage about the case.
The seven-man, five-woman panel instead heard testimony about efforts to revive Jackson, who the paramedics and emergency room doctor thought was dead at his rented mansion. Still, the singer was transported to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center because Murray wanted life-saving efforts to continue.