Witness: A ‘possibility’ that Michael Jackson caused own death
The prosecution's star medical expert acknowledged Friday afternoon that Michael Jackson may have given himself a lethal dose of propofol, but said it didn't change his opinion that the singer's personal physician was culpable in the death.
Dr. Steven Shafer, an anesthesiologist and professor at Columbia University, made the statement in his fourth day on the witness stand in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray and in the final minutes of direct examination by a prosecutor.
Asked if it was possible that Jackson had caused his own death by removing a clamp on an intravenous line of propofol, he replied, "That's a possibility."
Drug levels in Jackson's body showed a massive dose of the drug dripped into his veins, Shafer said, but there was no way to determine whether the doctor or patient was responsible for starting the flow.
Murray's lawyers have said Jackson awakened when the physician was out of the room and gave himself the drug. Shafer said this scenario was "in no way exculpatory" because it required Murray to set up the drug and then leave his patient alone and with access to a potentially dangerous drug.
"It would still be considered abandonment," he said.
Shafer has been one of the prosecution's most damaging witnesses. He condemned nearly every aspect of the treatment Murray gave Jackson and said scientific evidence indicated the physician had lied extensively to police about his conduct.
An attorney for Murray began his cross-examination of Shafer with a broad attack on the conclusions he rendered on the stand.
"You understand that everything you said in the last three days was your opinion," asked defense lawyer Ed Chernoff.
"I stated my name, which I think was a matter of fact," Shafer replied.
Murray, 58, faces a maximum of four years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter. His lawyers are to open the defense case following Shafer's testimony.
-- Harriet Ryan at Los Angeles County Superior Court
Photo: Dr. Steven Shafer empties a bottle of propofol into a saline bag as he demonstrates the use of the anesthetic during his testimony in Dr. Conrad Murray's trial on Thursday. Credit: Reed Saxon / Pool photo