LOS ANGELES -- Defense attorneys for the doctor accused of killing Michael Jackson began their case Monday after prosecutors spent four weeks presenting a portrait of the physician as the inept, distracted engineer of the King of Pop’s death.
One of the first defense witnesses was Dr. Allan Metzger, who testified that Jackson asked him about intravenous sleep medications roughly two months before the singer’s death.
Metzger told jurors that he warned the superstar of the risks.
Metzger also said he had known for at least 15 years that
Jackson had trouble sleeping. When he made a house call to the singer’s home in April 2009, Metzger said the singer asked him about intravenous sleep medications and anesthetics. The singer never mentioned a specific drug that he wanted, Metzger said.
"I think he used the word juice," Metzger said. The physician prescribed two oral medications, although he said the singer told him that he did not believe any oral medication would work.
The doctor said Jackson mentioned he wanted an anesthetic.
Prosecutors were quick to exploit the testimony to show that
another doctor had rejected any suggestion by the singer that he receive anesthetics as a sleep aid.
"You explained to him that it was dangerous, life-threatening and should not be done outside a hospital, correct?" prosecutor David Walgren asked on cross-examination.
"That’s correct," the doctor replied.
Metzger added that there was no amount of money that would have
prompted him to give Jackson the anesthetic propofol, which he said the singer didn’t mention by name during their visit.
The doctor was called by attorneys for Dr. Conrad Murray, who has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Authorities contend Murray gave Jackson a lethal dose of propofol as a sleep aid.
Metzger was one of several hostile witnesses that defense attorneys plan to call during their case, which began with brief testimony from a 911 records custodian, a police surveillance specialist and two detectives who investigated Murray.
They also called Cherilyn Lee, a nurse practitioner who has previously said Jackson asked her for propofol but she refused to provide it.
The detectives, Dan Myers and Orlando Martinez, were both asked about statements given by Jackson’s bodyguard Alberto Alvarez, who previously testified that Murray told him to place some medical equipment and vials in a bag before calling 911.
The defense has contended that Alvarez may have changed his story to fit details released by coroner’s officials.
The lawyers also noted previously that the bodyguard did not mention that Murray told him to place the items in a bag until more than two months after Jackson’s death.
The defense case began after a judge rejected their routine motion for a directed verdict of acquittal for Murray during a sidebar conference. Defense attorneys did not argue the motion, and Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said he would allow the jury to decide the case.
Defense lawyers have said they will have 15 witnesses but have not publicly revealed whether they will call Murray to testify.
Jurors have heard from the doctor through a more than two-hour interview with police, and it seems unlikely his attorneys would subject their client to what would be blistering questioning from prosecutors.
Prosecutors rested their case earlier in the day after four weeks of testimony from 33 witnesses.
The defense then began its effort to counter damaging testimony that cast Murray as an opportunistic doctor who broke legal, ethical and professional guidelines to satisfy a patient who was paying him $150,000 a month.
Dr. Steven Shafer, an expert on the anesthetic propofol who wove a net of scientific evidence around Murray, was the final prosecution witness. The defense has said it will present testimony from its own propofol expert to counter Shafer’s opinions.
Shafer previously testified that he thinks a propofol overdose killed Jackson. But he said Murray kept no records about how much of the drug he gave the singer.
Under defense cross-examination, Shafer remained steadfast in his position that that Murray was solely responsible for Jackson’s death. He portrayed the doctor as grossly negligent and "clueless" in what to do when his famous patient stopped breathing.
In his last minutes on the stand, Shafer, who had testified for nearly five days, was challenged by defense attorney Ed Chernoff on whether the mathematical models on which he based his conclusions actually applied to the doses of propofol given to Jackson by Murray.
Shafer said his mathematical simulations were difficult because Murray kept no records.
He based his reconstruction on Murray’s police interview in which he said he had been dosing Jackson with the drug nightly for six weeks.
"There is almost no precedent for this amount of propofol exposure," Shafer said under questioning.