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Conrad Murray: Judge issues another blow to defense

October 25, 2011 | 10:29 am

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A judge barred testimony about Michael Jackson’s contractual obligations to a concert promoter Tuesday, dealing yet another setback to his personal physician’s defense.

Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said details about the contract would distract jurors from their task of deciding whether the physician is guilty of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death.

“It involves the fact finder getting taken on a side tour of accounting principles and law school,” Pastor said in denying a defense request to introduce the 42-page document as evidence during the testimony of promoter’s chief executive.

Lawyers for Dr. Conrad Murray had hoped to use the contract between the pop star and AEG Live to suggest Jackson was under enormous financial pressure to pull off a series of London concerts.

FULL COVERAGE: The trial of Conrad Murray

Under the terms of the contract, AEG was advancing Jackson money to support himself and his children and to mount the 50 shows. If Jackson was unable to perform, he would have to repay more than $30 million, defense attorney Ed Chernoff said in court.

Jackson was already more than $400 million in debt, the lawyer said.

The defense contends the pressure led Jackson to inject himself with a lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol in a desperate attempt to sleep before important concert rehearsals.

The judge previously prohibited the defense from introducing evidence of Jackson’s money woes and prosecutors urged the judge to take the same tact with the contract.

“At every turn,” Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren said, “Conrad Murray through his attorneys have put the blame for his failures on Michael Jackson and this is just another attempt to do the same."

The judge agreed, saying that unless the defense could find witnesses who had heard Jackson say his anxiety was based in financial concerns, the contract was irrelevant.

“This is not a contractual dispute. This is a homicide case,” Pastor said.

AEG executive Randy Phillips is expected to take the stand Tuesday.

The judge said the defense could question him about the broad outlines of his relationship with the singer and his observations of his health and behavior in the months before his death.

Murray, 58, faces a maximum of four years in prison if convicted.


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-- Harriet Ryan at Los Angeles County Superior Court

Photo: Dr. Conrad Murray in court. Credit: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters