Lawyers for Michael Jackson's doctor sought to shift blame Thursday to another doctor and a drug different from the anesthetic that killed the star, calling an expert to testify that Jackson was addicted to Demerol in the months before his death.
They suggested the singer's withdrawal from the painkiller triggered the insomnia that Dr. Conrad Murray was trying to resolve when he gave Jackson the anesthetic propofol.
Murray's attorneys claim Jackson self-administered a fatal dose of propofol as a sleep aid.
Authorities contend Murray delivered the lethal dose and botched resuscitation efforts. Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's 2009 death.
There was no mention of propofol during the testimony of Dr. Robert Waldman, an addiction expert who said he studied the records of Dr. Arnold Klein, Jackson's longtime dermatologist, in concluding the star developed a dependency on the powerful painkiller. Records showed Klein used Demerol on Jackson repeatedly for procedures to enhance his appearance.
No Demerol was discovered in the singer's system when he died, but propofol was found throughout his body.
Waldman relied on Klein's records from March 2009 until days before Jackson died.
Under questioning by Murray's lead lawyer, Ed Chernoff, Waldman said: "I believe there is evidence that he (Jackson) was dependent on Demerol, possibly."
Klein has emerged as the missing link in the trial, with the defense raising his name at every turn and the judge ruling he may not be called as a witness because his care of Jackson is not at issue. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
But Klein's handwritten notes on his visits with Jackson were introduced through Waldman, who said Klein was giving Jackson unusually high doses of Demerol for four months — from March through June 2009 — with the last shots coming three days before the singer's death.
Over three days in April, the records showed Jackson received 775 milligrams of Demerol along with small doses of the sedative Versed. Waldman's testimony showed Klein, who also was Jackson's longtime friend, was giving the singer huge doses of the powerful Demerol at the same time Murray was giving Jackson the anesthetic propofol to sleep.
"This is a large dose for an opioid for a dermatology procedure in an office," Waldman said.
He told jurors the escalating doses showed Jackson had developed a tolerance to the drug and was probably addicted. He said a withdrawal symptom from the drug is insomnia.
On cross-examination, prosecutor David Walgren tangled with the expert, who was hostile to most of his questions. He elicited from Waldman that the law requires physicians to keep accurate and detailed records, which Murray did not. The doctor also said all drugs should be kept in a locked cabinet or safe where they could not be stolen or diverted by anyone.
Waldman said every doctor also must document when the drugs are stored and when they are used. Murray told police he kept no records on his treatment of Jackson.
Several prosecution experts have said the propofol self-administration defense was improbable, and a key expert said he ruled it out completely, arguing the more likely scenario was that Murray gave Jackson a much higher dose than he has acknowledged.
Jackson had complained of insomnia as he prepared for a series of comeback concerts and was receiving the anesthetic and sedatives from Murray to help him sleep.
Murray's police interview indicates he didn't know Jackson was being treated by Klein and was receiving other drugs.
In response to questions from a prosecutor, Waldman said some of the symptoms of Demerol withdrawal were the same as those seen in patients withdrawing from the sedatives lorazepam and diazepam. Murray had been giving Jackson both drugs.
The final defense witness was to be Dr. Paul White, a propofol expert.
White and Waldman do not necessarily have to convince jurors that Jackson gave himself the fatal dose, but merely provide them with enough reasonable doubt about the prosecution's case against Murray.