A judge decided Tuesday to review medical records from Michael Jackson's longtime dermatologist before deciding whether the documents should be turned over to defense attorneys seeking to show the singer was addicted to a powerful painkiller at the time of his death.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor will review files from Dr. Arnold Klein that cover the final nine months of Jackson's life.
Klein is fighting the release of the files to attorneys for Dr. Conrad Murray, citing patient confidentiality rules. Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of the pop star.
Attorneys for Murray say they need to review the files to see if the records support a defense theory that Jackson was suffering from withdrawal from the painkiller Demerol when he died unexpectedly on June 25, 2009.
The lawyers contend Klein frequently injected Jackson with Demerol and the singer became addicted to the treatments.
"Due to Dr. Klein's actions, Mr. Jackson became physiologically and psychologically dependent on Demerol," Murray's attorneys wrote in a motion filed Monday. "Dr. Murray's right to this information in the criminal case greatly outweighs any privilege or privacy rights asserted by Dr. Klein pertaining to the records of Mr. Jackson who is now deceased."
Defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan has said a potential defense expert witness contends Jackson was showing signs of Demerol withdrawal before his death, and that may have complicated his reactions to other medications.
Authorities have accused Murray of giving the singer a lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol, which is normally administered in hospital settings. His attorneys have said he did not give the singer anything that should have killed him.
Klein's attorney Garo Ghazarian said during the hearing Tuesday that the defense hadn't shown any evidence that Jackson was addicted to Demerol or that any of Klein's treatments were improper.
Pastor said he will review the files on April 6 and also hear from an attorney for Jackson's estate, who have not waived any of the singer's privileges.
Some of Klein's medical records have already been turned over to coroner's officials who investigated Jackson's death.
Murray's attorneys Ed Chernoff and Nareg Gourjian said they have reviewed those files. They agreed to limit any records requests to the last nine months of Jackson's life, when the singer returned to Los Angeles and began preparing for a series of comeback concerts titled "This Is It."
Jury selection in Murray's case begins Thursday. Hundreds of potential jurors are being summoned to a downtown Los Angeles courthouse where they will begin filling out questionnaires that Pastor said currently spans 29 pages and contains 125 questions.
The judge met in closed session with attorneys to finalize the questionnaire. Opening statements are expected to begin on May 9.