Conrad Murray trial: Hairdresser among witnesses to testify
In their ongoing effort to suggest Michael Jackson was a desperate man who accidentally took his own life, defense lawyers for his former physician were set Tuesday to call two members of the singer's inner circle to the stand.
Lawyers for Dr. Conrad Murray were expected to question the witnesses, Jackson's longtime hairdresser and the entertainment executive overseeing his comeback, about his final days, a period in which they have portrayed him as racked with anxiety and addled by drugs.
The hairdresser, Karen Faye, and the executive, Randy Phillips, were to take the stand on the second of what is anticipated to be a four-day defense case. Murray, 58, stands accused of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's June 25, 2009, death.
His lawyers contend Jackson gave himself a lethal amount of the surgical anesthetic propofol in an effort to deal with chronic insomnia that was jeopardizing rehearsals crucial to the success of his "This Is It" comeback concerts.
Faye told police that in the last week of Jackson's life, he was weak, paranoid and under the influence of what seemed to be drugs, according to a defense filing. She told others she feared he would die.
Among those she confided in was Randy Phillips, the chief executive of AEG Live, the concert promoter bankrolling Jackson's planned London concerts. In court papers filed Monday, defense lawyers indicated they planned to question Phillips about the terms of the contract between AEG and Jackson.
The terms required Jackson to put on a "first-class performance" at each of 50 shows and "to maintain a positive public perception," Gourjian wrote. AEG was footing the bill for the lifestyle Jackson and his children enjoyed as well as concert preparations, money that the singer would have to pay back if the shows did not happen.
Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor has barred the defense from delving into Jackson's troubled finances, but in the filing, Gourjian called the contract "vital to the defense."
"It is…imperative for the jury to review the Agreement to understand the stringent requirements that were placed on Mr. Jackson and to illustrate that, under the circumstances, the actions taken by Mr. Jackson on June 25, 2009 were not unreasonable," the lawyer wrote.
Before Faye and Phillips testify, jurors are to hear from a nurse practitioner who said Jackson asked her to get propofol for his sleep problems. In testimony late Monday, Cherilyn Lee said she encouraged the pop star to use natural remedies, such as tea and vitamins, for insomnia. When that failed, she suggested he enroll in a sleep study or have his amino acid levels checked.
"He said he didn't have time for all that," Lee recalled.
Murray faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison if convicted. The prosecution, which rested its case Monday, maintains he egregiously violated a host of medical standards, including using propofol in a home setting.
-- Harriet Ryan at Los Angeles County Superior Court
Photo: Dr. Conrad Murray, with defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan, left, listens in court last week. Credit: Reed Saxon / Pool photo