Conrad Murray jurors see video on 'drug that killed' Jackson
After weeks of testimony about alleged failures in the medical treatment of Michael Jackson, jurors at the trial of his personal physician watched a video Wednesday of how prosecutors say things should have gone.
The video, prepared by a Canadian anesthesiologist, demonstrated how propofol, the surgical anesthetic that killed Jackson, is safely used in operating rooms daily and seemed intended as a final rebuke of the care Dr. Conrad Murray gave Jackson.
Played during the testimony of the last government witness, the video walked jurors through the many precautions doctors take, from checking each piece of equipment before administering anesthesia to using a mechanized pump to dispense exact amounts of propofol.
“This is done before each procedure for every patient. There are no exceptions,” Dr. Steven Shafer, a New York anesthesiologist who helped develop national guidelines for the drug, testified Wednesday.
Previous government expert witnesses have condemned Murray’s use of the drug in a home setting — Jackson’s rented mansion — without the proper monitoring or resuscitation equipment on hand. Witnesses have said Murray had only one inadequate monitor in Jackson’s bedroom.
Shafer repeatedly paused the video, made at his request by a colleague, to emphasize the ways Murray’s actions strayed from the appropriate administration of the drug.
When the anesthesiologist on screen discovered that his patient — a family friend drafted as an actor — was not breathing, the words “CALL FOR HELP!” flashed across the top of the video.
“The first thing you say, the first thing you do is call for help,” Shafer said, adding that it was a lesson anesthesiologists learned on their first day of training.
Murray’s delay in summoning an ambulance to Jackson’s home June 25, 2009, is among the reasons prosecutors have cited in urging a Los Angeles jury to convict the physician of involuntary manslaughter.
The video also showed a close-up of the doctor administering two-handed CPR with a caption that said resuscitation efforts should continue until the patient was revived or dead. A Jackson security guard previously testified that Murray performed chest compressions sporadically and with one hand.
The video was presented to jurors over the objections of a defense attorney, who said its only effect would be to inflame jurors.
“The purpose of the video is not to provide information to the jury. It’s to leave an impression,” lawyer Ed Chernoff said. “This essentially is a demonstration of what the prosecution would like the jury to believe occurred.”
The defense contends Jackson caused his own death by swallowing a handful of sedatives and then injecting himself with propofol. They have said he died immediately and no efforts could have saved him.
Before playing the video, Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren asked Shafer why he had agreed act as an expert for the prosecution without any compensation. Shafer told jurors it was his practice not to charge because he was “uncomfortable profiting from a medical misadventure.”
He said consulting on the Jackson case was particularly important to him because it had raised questions about the safety of propofol, a drug for which he had helped established national guidelines.
Patients asked him daily, he said, “Are you going to give me the drug that killed Michael Jackson?”
“This is a fear that patients do not need to have. Propofol is an outstanding drug” when properly administered, Shafer said.
The defense is expected to open its case Friday. Murray faces a maximum of four years in prison if convicted.
— Harriet Ryan
Photo: Deputy L.A. County Dist. Atty. David Walgren holds a vial of propofol in court. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times