Jacksons v AEG Timeline Legal

Self-administration the credible theory: Murray trial update

By | Published on Monday 31 October 2011

Conrad Murray

That Michael Jackson gave himself an extra fatal shot of propofol was the only reasonable explanation for his death, said Dr Paul White on Friday, as the defence’s most important witness took to the stand in the ongoing Conrad Murray trial. The trial’s final witness contradicted directly the testimony of prosecution expert Dr Steven Shafer who, interestingly, is a friend of White.

As much previously reported, Murray is accused of causing Michael Jackson’s death by negligently administering the drug propofol in a domestic environment as a cure for insomnia. Murray admits to giving Jackson a very small dose of the surgical anaesthetic to aid sleep, but not enough to cause his death. The patient, the doctor’s team has argued from the outset, must have administered an extra shot of the drug while Murray was out of the room which, added to lorazepam taken by Jackson earlier that day, again unbeknownst to the medic, was enough to cause cardiac arrest.

The prosecution presented various expert witnesses who said the self-administration theory was very unlikely, despite the defence’s insistence Jackson was experienced at injecting medication into his own body. Not in the groggy state he would have been in after the first shot of propofol, the prosecution’s experts countered, and anyway – said Shafer – there was simply too much of the drug in Jackson’s system to believe the problem was an extra shot taken by the patient at the last minute.

But White said on Friday that – however unlikely – the self-administration theory was the only one that stacked up. He also argued that, when combined with the lorazepam already in the singer’s system and the previous shot of propofol given by Murray, it would actually only take a relatively small extra shot of the drug to prove fatal, especially if administered quickly.

There have been various theories as to how Jackson might have self-administered the drug presented during the trial so far. The theory he drank the drug was rejected (it was shown that oral consumption would not have been sufficiently harmful), but other explanations include that he simply injected himself, that he injected extra propofol into an empty IV system already attached to his body, or that he turned on a IV system already containing the drug which had been left turned off but still attached to the patient. For his part, White proposed that Jackson injected the drug into a catheter which was connected to the singer’s leg.

Shafer, after arguing there was simply too much propofol in Jackson’s system for the self-administration theory to stack up, argued that the only credible explanation was that Murray left an IV system, slowing pumping more of the drug into Jackson, running while he took phone calls. The prosecution witness conceded that the kit required for that theory was not found in Jackson’s bedroom but, noting that security guards had testified how Murray was anxious to tidy bits of kit away as paramedics arrived after Jackson’s death, he concluded that the doctor must have hidden the tubing that would be required for his IV theory to work.

But on Friday, White picked more holes in Shafer’s theory. For Murray to have been able to quickly deconstruct and hide the alleged IV set up, it would have required the large propfol supply Shafer claims Murray left in the IV system to run out just at the moment he discovered Jackson wasn’t breathing which, White argued, would have been an extraordinary coincidence.

White, with credentials pretty much on par with Shafer, was by the far the most important defence witness. So sure did he seem of the self-administration theory, it could be enough to persuade the jury there is sufficient doubt with regards whether or not Murray actually delivered the shot of propofol that killed Jackson.

Though, White’s certainty is still to be tested by the prosecution’s cross-examination and, even if White remains convincing, many of the prosecution’s experts have already argued that even if the late king of pop did self-administer the fatal shot, Murray is still negligent for using the drug in a domestic setting in the first place, for leaving supplies of the drug in reach of the patient, and for not having the appropriate monitoring equipment in place.

The case continues, with final arguments expected to begin today or tomorrow.