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Michael Jackson’s ‘distracting’ inner circle can't testify

August 30, 2011 |  9:05 am

Judge bars witnesses in trial of Michael Jackson's physician, Conrad Murray

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge excluded the testimony of more than a dozen defense witnesses in the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor, saying that they would confuse jurors and distract from the case.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor excluded the testimony of Jackson's longtime dermatologist, his business manager and the nanny of his three children.

The defense had hoped the testimony of these confidants and other insiders would convince a jury that the singer was so drug-addled and experiencing so much pressure to perform that he accidentally overdosed on a surgical anesthetic.

"Discussions of these subject matters are sufficiently convoluted, distracting and detracting as to substantially outweigh any probative value whatsoever," Pastor said.

The judge also prohibited any witnesses connected to Jackson's 2005 prosecution for child molestation. Defense attorneys for Conrad Murray, Jackson's physician who was at the pop star's home when he overdosed, said they wanted to call a Santa Barbara County sheriff's detective who found propofol and Demerol in the performer's Neverland estate in 2003. A jury acquitted Jackson of all charges.

"That is no-go territory as far as this criminal trial," Pastor said.

A lawyer for Murray said the defense planned to file a motion later this week asking the judge to reconsider.

"A large point of our defense has been gutted," lawyer Edward Chernoff said, "but if we have to go to a tank battle with a switchblade, that is exactly what we'll do."

Prosecutors contend that Murray, hired as Jackson's $150,000-a-month concert doctor, bears criminal responsibility for his death. They have said he injected Jackson with a drug, propofol, that should never be used outside a surgical setting and then left him unattended. Prosecutors urged the judge Monday to keep testimony focused on the medical care Murray provided the singer before his June 25, 2009, death and not Jackson's mental state or drug use.

"The People are very concerned about this trial deteriorating into an attack on Michael Jackson," Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren said.

Jury selection in Murray's trial begins Sept. 8, with testimony starting at the end of the month. The trial is expected to last five weeks.

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-- Harriet Ryan and Victoria Kim

Photo: Michael Jackson's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, right, in court with one of his attorneys, Edward Chernoff. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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