Conrad Murray patient: 'I am alive today because of that man'
Long before he was Michael Jackson’s personal physician, Conrad Murray was a doctor who spent hours on end talking to his patients, called them at home on weekends and offered his services for free to those who couldn’t afford it, a string of patients testified Wednesday.
Five character witnesses -– patients at Murray’s Las Vegas and Houston practices –- took the stand one after another at the doctor’s involuntary manslaughter trial as a visibly emotional Murray wiped tears from his reddened eyes.
“That man sitting there is the best doctor I’ve ever seen,” said Andrew Guest, who said Murray treated him for a heart condition in 2002. “I’m alive today because of that man.”
Guest and other patients rebutted the prosecution’s portrayal of Murray as a money-grubbing doctor who was reckless in his treatment of Jackson and abandoned his patient.
One longtime patient and friend, Gerry Causey, said he had appointments in Murray’s office that lasted four and a half hours. After each appointment, Murray called his wife to explain what he was going through, Causey testified.
Prosecutors have said Murray was motivated by the $150,000-a-month salary he was to receive when he gave the pop star a surgical anesthetic and then left his side.
“Dr. Murray is not the type to rush through a procedure,” said Lunette Sampson, a patient at Murray’s Las Vegas practice who had suffered several heart attacks and blockages in her heart and legs. “When we come, we know he is going to be there for a while.”
Each of the patients said Murray would provide free care or help pick up the cost of prescriptions for patients who couldn’t pay.
One 82-year-old woman described how Murray set up a clinic in a low-income neighborhood in Houston in honor of his father, who was a longtime physician there.
In his cross examinations, Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren noted each patient seen by the cardiologist received heart-related treatments and not any care relating to sleep disorders or drug dependency.
The patients said when Murray sedated them for procedures, it was in hospital settings with monitoring equipment and backup personnel –- precautions that prosecutors said the doctor should have taken with Jackson.
“Every patient deserves that level of care?” Walgren asked Guest.
“Yes,” he responded.
After jurors left for the day, Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor addressed Murray directly on the subject of whether he plans to take the stand.
“I believe it is my obligation in every criminal case to advise the defendant that a defendant has an absolute right to testify and an absolute right not to testify,” Pastor told Murray.
He said he would ask Murray for an answer later this week at the close of the defense case. Murray was not among the upcoming defense witnesses defense attorney Ed Chernoff listed for the judge Thursday.
The lawyer previously told Pastor it was unnecessary to review Murray’s right to testify in open court because the doctor had a competent defense team to inform him. But Pastor said it was his policy and instructed Murray at length about his constitutional right to testify or remain silent.
“The important thing Dr. Murray, is that it is your decision, nobody else’s,” the judge said.
Murray said he understood.
-- Victoria Kim at Los Angeles County Superior Court
Photo: Dr. Conrad Murray. Credit: Mark Boster