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Key Conrad Murray witness faces new contempt of court charge

October 31, 2011 |  1:05 pm

Conrad Murray in court Oct 31 2011

The judge overseeing the trial of Michael Jackson’s personal physician said Monday he was considering finding a key defense witness in contempt of court and fining him $1,000 for violating an order.

Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said the witness, an anesthesiologist who is the main medical expert for Dr. Conrad Murray’s defense, violated a court order by mentioning in his testimony conversations he had with Murray.

Pastor had earlier warned Dr. Paul White to keep from mentioning the “two extensive conversations” he said he had with Murray, information the judge had previously ruled was inadmissible evidence in the case.

Minutes after the judge’s admonishment, White again brought up the conversation before jurors, the judge said.

“That is a direct violation of my order and quite frankly constitutes direct contempt,” Pastor said.

In his testimony earlier Monday, White hinted at information from those conversations -- that the pop star had his “own supply” of propofol, that Murray left a half-filled syringe at Jackson’s bedside -– to a prosecutor’s repeated objections.

Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren protested to the judge outside the jury’s presence that White was intentionally dropping mentions of information from his conversations with Murray.

Defense attorney Michael Flanagan said White could not be expected to specifically recall what information he got from Murray’s police interview and what information he got from his meetings with the physician.

Pastor said he didn’t buy that explanation.

“Nice try,” Pastor said. "This is so obvious .... He’s trying at every juncture to add in other material. It’s deliberate, I don’t like it, it’s not going to happen again.”

Pastor said when White once again referred to the conversation despite his admonishment, it was a direct violation of his order.

The contempt of court charge is the second for White, who was also chided by the judge earlier this month for making comments about a prosecution witness reported on a website.

Pastor said he would hold a hearing on both contempt charges Nov. 16.

In his testimony Monday, White, an expert on the anesthetic propofol, elaborated on the theory he first gave last week.

Jackson, he testified, probably injected himself with a syringe Murray had filled with 25 milligrams of propofol and laid near his bedside.

He said that when Murray was distracted by a series of phone calls, Jackson woke up and got the syringe.

“It was some time during that 40-minute period where I believe Mr. Jackson had the opportunity and likely self-administrated the final fatal dose of propofol,” he said.

Walgren noted that Jackson was attached to an IV stand and a urinary catheter and suggested it was more plausible for Murray to have injected the propofol and then lied about the amount he gave.

“It’s possible if he wanted to potentially harm Michael Jackson,” White replied.

“If Michael Jackson did it, was he doing it to harm himself?” Walgren asked.

“I don’t think he realized the potential danger,” the witness answered.

The exchanges between the witness and prosecutor were testy at times, with Walgren remarking: “You keep throwing out these kind of rehearsed lines.”

A defense attorney objected, and the comment was stricken.


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-- Victoria Kim at Los Angeles County Superior Court

Photo: Dr. Conrad Murray in court Monday. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Pool