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Defense case begins in Jackson doctor trial

Defense attorneys for the doctor charged in Michael Jackson's death are expected to begin calling witnesses in their case Monday after they finish grilling a key prosecution expert.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Defense attorneys for the doctor accused of killing Michael Jackson began their case Monday, targeting Jackson as the architect of his own demise by seeking to cure his insomnia with an intravenous drug, even when he was warned it was dangerous. With the testimony of a doctor and a nurse practitioner, the lawyers showed that Jackson had been on his quest for at least 15 years, and in the months before he died he began asking for intravenous medication, specifically an anesthetic. Jackson would eventually get the drug propofol from Dr. Conrad Murray, now on trial for involuntary manslaughter in the death of the superstar. Taking over in the packed courtroom after prosecutors rested their four-week case, defense lawyers showed their hand at last, calling witnesses who indicated it was Jackson who demanded the drug that eventually killed him.

Dr. Allan Metzger, who was Jackson's friend and confidant over two decades, said he refused the singer's request for an intravenous anesthetic two months before his death and told the star it would be dangerous if administered in his home. Prosecutors were quick to exploit the testimony to show that other medical professionals 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," Metzger replied. Metzger added that there was no amount of money that would have prompted him to give Jackson the anesthetic propofol.The next witness, holistic nurse practitioner Cherilyn Lee, said she treated Jackson with vitamin infusions and he felt so much better that he invited her to go with him to London for his concert tour. Then he reported he couldn't sleep and asked her to come to his home and watch him sleep, she testified. She said she thought his problem was that he had been drinking highly caffeinated beverages for energy. Once he withdrew from them, she was confident his problem would abate. But it did not. She said she urged him to undergo a sleep study but he said he didn't have time. In mid-April 2009, shortly before he began treatment with Murray, Jackson asked Lee to watch him sleep, which she did. She said he slept for five hours but was upset when he awoke. "He said, 'You see, I can't stay asleep,'" she said.

Lee, who has spoken publicly about Jackson's demand that she get him propofol, was expected to tell jurors about that exchange when she returns to the witness stand Tuesday. 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. He 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. 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. Murray has pleaded not guilty. 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 records custodian for the police emergency dispatcher, a police surveillance specialist and two detectives who investigated Murray.

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 Murray 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 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.