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Witness in Conrad Murray trial fined $250 for disobeying judge

Dr. Paul White
A judge on Wednesday ordered the star defense expert in the trial of Michael Jackson’s personal physician to pay a $250 fine for flouting court instructions that he not mention private conversations with the doctor on the witness stand.

Dr. Paul White, a prominent anesthesiology researcher who testified that Jackson caused his own fatal overdose, apologized at a hearing for making the statement during testimony last month. He said he was an inexperienced witness who became confused about what he was allowed to tell jurors.

“I was trying to walk a very fine line between telling everything I knew honestly and openly before the court and not delving into things I came to know as the result of 10 or 11 hours of conversation with Dr. [Conrad] Murray,” White told Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor.

A jury convicted Murray of involuntary manslaughter last week for providing Jackson with the surgical anesthetic, propofol, which killed the singer.

White was warned before taking the stand by defense lawyers that he could not tell jurors what Murray told him and should refer only to information contained in a police interview. During a contentious cross-examination, White repeatedly referenced his talks with Murray despite warnings from the judge and prosecutor.

The final straw came when White replied to a question from Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren by saying: “I was asked by the judge not to comment on anything I had learned from speaking to Dr. Murray.”

At the hearing Wednesday, Walgren blasted White for “deliberately trying to sabotage” the trial, a remark the judge dismissed as “hyperbole.”

Pastor found White in contempt but said that after hearing the expert’s explanation, he had decided to reduce the fine from $1,000 to $250. The judge also said he had decided not to find White in contempt for allegedly calling a prosecution expert a “scumbag.”

White had denied the accusation, and the judge said he had determined it did not constitute contempt of court.

Murray is in jail pending Nov. 29 sentencing. He faces a maximum of four years in prison.

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-- Harriet Ryan

Photo: Dr. Paul White during the Conrad Murray trial. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Pool.

 
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