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The defence rests: Murray trial update

By | Published on Wednesday 2 November 2011

Conrad Murray

Conrad Murray confirmed once and for all yesterday that he will not testify at his manslaughter trial. Both the prosecution and defence in the case, in which the doctor is accused of causing Michael Jackson’s death in 2009 through negligence, had previously said they would not call Murray to the witness stand, but judge Michael Pastor said that Murray must still be given the option to be questioned by lawyers representing both sides.

The doctor had previously asked to keep his options open, even though most experts commentating on the trial said it would be better for the medic not to take questions directly. But yesterday, after the defence wrapped up its case, Murray confirmed he did not wish to give a testimony.

Earlier in the day the prosecution requested that its star witness return to the stand to respond to the testimony of the defence’s top expert. As previously reported, Dr Steven Shafer and Dr Paul White, both leading experts on the drug that killed Jackson, propofol, testified for the prosecution and defence respectively.

The two colleagues disagree on the most likely explanation for Jackson’s death. Shafer says that the evidence points to Murray giving the singer a much larger dose of propofol than he has admitted, probably leaving an IV system pumping the surgical anaesthetic into Jackson’s body while the doctor left the room to make phone calls.

White says he thinks it much more likely that, as Murray has claimed, Jackson had taken lorazepam without telling his doctor, and then administered a second shot of propofol while the defendant was out of the room, which, combined with the small shot of the anaesthetic Murray had given him earlier, combined to create the perfect storm, killing the singer.

Called back to respond to White’s testimony, Shafer said he thought his colleague’s theory was wrong, partly because it was based on a 1988 study which, Shafer reckons, has since been disproved. He added that new research makes his theory much more credible. Asked by the prosecution if the new research “absolutely rules out the hypothesis put forth by Dr White”, Shafter responded, simply: “Yes, absolutely”.

And with that, the case for the defence – which relied heavily on White’s testimony – was complete. Both sides will now give their final arguments on Thursday before the jury starts its deliberations.

Away from the jury yesterday lawyers for both sides discussed what instructions will be given for jurors. The prosecution said they would offer jurors two guilty verdict options, one that administering the propofol was a lawful act but done in a criminally negligent way, or two that Murray failed to perform his legal duty as a physician. Against the defence’s wishes, jurors will also be advised how – even if they believe the defence’s argument that Jackson self-administered the fatal shot of propofol – they could still find Murray negligent, for allowing that to happen.

The case continues.



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