Jacksons v AEG Timeline Legal

Defence toughen up: Murray trial update

By | Published on Friday 7 October 2011

Conrad Murray

So, attention moved to the LA coroner’s office yesterday as the Conrad Murray trial moved to day number eight. Murray, of course, is accused of causing the death of Michael Jackson by negligently administering the drug propofol, which ultimately killed the late king of pop in 2009.

Later in the day the jury heard from the toxicologist who worked on Jackson’s body to identify the cause of death. He confirmed he found propofol in the singer’s blood, liver, urine and stomach, as well as the sedative lorazepam and other medications elsewhere in the body.

But of most interest was the earlier testimony from Elissa Fleak, the investigator sent by the coroner’s office to gather evidence from the room where Jackson died. Fleak was the first prosecution witness to really feel the wrath of the defence team.

Forensic evidence discussed yesterday seemed to support the prosecution’s claim that Murray administered the fatal shot of propofol, and not the defence’s argument that Jackson self-administered the drugs that actually killed him.

The singer’s fingerprints could not be found on any of the vials found in the room which had contained medication, but Murray’s prints were on a used 100ml vial of propofol, which – if administered that day – was considerably more of the drug than the doctor has admitted giving his patient.

But the defence focused on Fleak’s conduct in gathering and documenting the medications she found in Jackson’s residence. Defence attorney Ed Chernoff accused the investigator of making many mistakes, of moving objects before properly documenting them, and of amending her notes after the initial investigation.

Fleak denied making “many mistakes”, though when questioned by the prosecution conceded her work might not have been perfect, but added that such work rarely is. She actually conducted two investigations, one shortly after the singer died and another four days later after Murray had given information to police about where other medications may have been stored. The investigator admitted that returning to the scene a second time was unusual, but said that this case was different to most.

The defence team focused in particular on the fact that Fleak had added to her report only earlier this year that she had found a bottle of propofol inside an IV bag in Jackson’s room. That find tallies with claims by one of the security guards who testified last week about Murray’s efforts to gather up and hide medications before paramedics arrived, but Chernoff suggested Fleak only added that information to her report after hearing of the guard’s testimony, so to back up his claim.

Fleak denied that charge, though admitted she had destroyed her original handwritten notes, so it was impossible to see what she had actually noted down during her original investigation. Fleak insisted destroying such notes was routine in her work, though some commentators reckon this testimony was the first in the Murray trial so far that may have put some doubt in the jurors’ minds regarding the reliability of the prosecution’s arguments.

The case continues.