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Conrad Murray trial: Whether Jackson swallowed sedative is debated

October 7, 2011 | 10:40 am

Dan Anderson Conrad Murray
A toxicologist and an attorney for Michael Jackson’s doctor jousted Friday over whether the presence of a sedative in the singer’s stomach was proof he swallowed the drug.

In a painstakingly slow cross-examination rife with highly technical terms such as “ion trapping” and “bioavailability,” the lawyer for Dr. Conrad Murray repeatedly suggested there was no other explanation.

And the witness repeatedly insisted there might be, but the question should be put to someone with more training.

Conrad Murray witnesses: Who's who

How the minuscule amount of lorazepam found in Jackson’s stomach got there is in dispute at Murray’s manslaughter trial.

Murray acknowledged giving Jackson two injections of the drug, but his defense contends the singer later downed a handful of lorazepam pills without Murray’s knowledge.

Dan Anderson, a toxicologist at the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office, said that in his experience “drug levels can be detected in the stomach … that were not given orally.”

Pressed by defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan to explain given the specific properties of lorazepam, the witness demurred, saying he preferred “to leave it to the many experts who are going to march up here after me.”

Flanagan persevered, pressing Anderson on details including the absorption time of lorazepam and whether it was subject to “postmortem redistribution.”

Anderson, shifting in the witness chair, told the lawyer several times he was uncomfortable offering opinions.

“I personally would rather leave this to a pharmacologist who would be coming,” he said.

Both sides have retained stables of forensic experts to bolster their theories of Jackson’s 2009 death from the surgical anesthetic propofol.

Murray, 58, faces a maximum of four years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter. His trial is concluding its second week of testimony.


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-- Harriet Ryan at Los Angeles County Superior Court

Photo: Dan Anderson, a toxicologist for the L.A. County Coroner's office, testifies Thursday in the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray. Credit: Mario Anzuoni