Michael Jackson hearing: Family members weep as more details emerge on pop star's death
With Michael Jackson lying lifeless in a bed, his doctor ordered a security guard to remove an IV bag of medication resembling the anesthetic blamed in the pop star’s death before calling for an ambulance, the guard testified Wednesday.
Alberto Alvarez told a Superior Court judge deciding whether there is enough evidence to try Dr. Conrad Murray for involuntary manslaughter that the physician first told him the singer needed an ambulance urgently, but then instructed him to gather up medical vials and an IV bag in larger bags.
“I noticed that inside (the IV bag), there was like a bottle ... and then I noticed that at the bottom of the bag there was a milk-like substance,” Alvarez testified. The surgical anesthetic propofol –- which the coroner said caused Jackson’s death -- is a white liquid administered intravenously.
Murray, 57, acknowledged giving the singer propofol as a sleep aid in an interview with police, authorities have said.
Testifying on the second day of the preliminary hearing, Alvarez offered the closest view yet of Murray’s behavior after Jackson stopped breathing in a bedroom of his rented Holmby Hills mansion.
“He said, ‘We need to get him a hospital. We need to get an ambulance,’” Alvarez quoted Murray as telling him.
He said that when he asked Murray what had happened, the doctor said Jackson “had a bad reaction.”
But soon after that, Murray grabbed a handful of medical vials from Jackson’s nightstand and told Alvarez to place them in a bag, the guard testified. He repeated the instruction for the IV bag containing the white substance, but did not tell him to remove another IV bag, he said.
Only then, Alvarez testified, did the doctor order him to call for an ambulance.
Paramedics and emergency room doctors are expected to testify later in the hearing that Murray concealed his use of propofol from them as they worked to save Jackson’s life.
Prosecutors have said other medical experts will testify that Murray did not have proper monitoring equipment for administering propofol, a drug that can suppress the respiratory system.
Alvarez said he did not see any heart or blood pressure monitors in the room, but Murray clipped a monitoring device to Jackson’s finger after paramedics were called.
Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren played the 911 call for Judge Michael Pastor.
When Alvarez told the emergency operator that the stricken man’s personal physician was there, the operator expressed surprise.
“Oh, you have a doctor there?” the operator said, adding the doctor would be the “higher authority.”
Alvarez said before they arrived, Murray asked him and another security guard if they knew how to perform CPR. Prosecutors have said Murray was doing it incorrectly by using one hand and on a soft mattress.
Alvarez said the 911 operator told them to move Jackson to the floor to administer CPR. There, Alvarez said, he did chest compressions while Murray gave the singer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
“After the second time, he gave a breath, he came up and said, 'You know, this is the first time I give mouth to mouth, but I have to do it, he’s my friend,'" Alvarez said.
In the spectator’s gallery, Janet Jackson, the singer’s sister, shook her head and held the bridge of her nose with her fingers. Jackson family members and friends filled an entire row in the courtroom for the dramatic testimony.
His mother, Katherine, dabbed away tears as Alvarez recalled Jackson’s daughter, Paris, rushing into the bedroom where her father lay stricken and screaming, “Daddy!”
Alvarez, his own voice choking with emotion, recalled Murray shouting, “Get them out! Get them out! Don’t let them see their father like this.”
The cardiologist, who was tending to Jackson during a comeback attempt, has pleaded not guilty and said through his lawyers that he did nothing that should have caused Jackson’s death.
Under cross-examination, Alvarez acknowledged he had not told police in two initial interviews that Murray had ordered him to remove potential evidence.
“You didn’t think it was suspicious?” asked defense lawyer Ed Chernoff.
“Apparently not, sir,” Alvarez said.
“You thought he was packing up to go to the hospital, right?” the lawyer asked.
“Yes, sir,” Alvarez replied.
Chernoff also questioned Alvarez about his relationship with the Jackson family, which briefly employed him as a guard for the late singer’s children, and his discussions with other Jackson staffers, with whom he shares an attorney.
Alvarez acknowledged that he had refused to speak to a defense investigator who had sought to interview him, but that in a police interview he had said he might sell his story to the media at a later date.
-- Harriet Ryan and Victoria Kim at L.A. County Superior Court
Photos: ( Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times ) Michael Jackson's brother Jackie and their mother, Katherine, arrive at the Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles for an involuntary manslaughter hearing for the pop star's personal physician.