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Michael Jackson's doctor ordered IV bag, vials gathered up after singer stricken, guard says

A bodyguard testifies Dr. Conrad Murray asked him to collect medical vials and an IV bag in Michael Jackson's room before calling 911. A paramedic testifies that Murray did not mention giving the singer propofol.

January 06, 2011|By Harriet Ryan and Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times

Michael Jackson's doctor ordered a security guard to remove an IV bag apparently containing the anesthetic propofol from the stricken pop star's bedside and then told arriving paramedics he had administered only a mild anti-anxiety drug, witnesses testified Wednesday.

Developing: Updates from the hearing

The guard, Alberto Alvarez, told a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge deciding whether Dr. Conrad Murray should be tried for involuntary manslaughter that before instructing him to call 911, the physician told Alvarez to gather up medical paraphernalia, including vials and an IV bag containing "a milk-like substance."

Propofol, the surgical drug that coroner's officials said caused Jackson's death, is an opaque white liquid sometimes called "milk of amnesia." It is at the center of the case against Murray, a 57-year-old cardiologist. The doctor acknowledged to police two days after Jackson's death that he had administered propofol to help Jackson, a chronic insomniac, fall sleep.

The testimony on the second day of the preliminary hearing concerned what Murray said — and didn't say — in the moments after Jackson stopped breathing. The first paramedic on the scene said Murray mentioned nothing about propofol, claimed his patient's only ailment was "dehydration" and understated significantly how long it had been since Jackson had stopped breathing.

"It just didn't add up," Richard Senneff, an L.A. Fire Department paramedic, said repeatedly.

From Alvarez, Judge Michael Pastor got the closest look yet at Murray's behavior after Jackson went into respiratory arrest in a bedroom of his rented Holmby Hills mansion. When Alvarez arrived in the pop star's bedroom, he said, Murray was doing chest compressions on Jackson in the bed with one hand. He said that when he asked what had happened, the doctor said that Jackson "had a bad reaction."

"We need to get him to a hospital. We need to get an ambulance," Alvarez quoted Murray as telling him.

Murray, a cardiologist, then grabbed a handful of medical vials from Jackson's nightstand and told Alvarez to place them in a bag, the guard testified. He said Murray repeated the instruction for the IV bag containing the white substance, but not for a nearby IV bag of saline.

"To be clear, 911 had not been called yet?" asked Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren.

"That's true," Alvarez replied.

When paramedics were summoned to the home, Senneff said he did not recognize Jackson, but rather saw a pale, underweight man with an IV stand and a physician at his side.

"I was thinking along the lines of this is a hospice patient," he said.

Murray initially insisted that Jackson wasn't taking any medication, but when Senneff persisted, the doctor said he had given him lorazepam to sleep, the paramedic said.

Senneff testified that when he asked Murray how long Jackson had been "down," the doctor said, "It just happened."

Yet based on Jackson's dilated pupils, dry eyes and his skin, which was cold to the touch, Senneff said he believed Jackson may have been dead for more than 20 minutes, the paramedic said.

"All I can tell you is my gut feeling at the time was this did not just happen, it's been a period of time," said Senneff, a 25-year veteran.

Alvarez said that before paramedics arrived, he did chest compressions while Murray gave the singer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

"After the second time he gave a breath, he came up and said you know this is the first time I give mouth to mouth, but I have to do it, he's my friend," he said.

In the spectator's gallery, Janet Jackson, the singer's sister, shook her head. Jackson family members and friends filled an entire row in the courtroom for the dramatic testimony. His mother, Katherine, dabbed away tears as Alvarez recalled Jackson's daughter, Paris, rushing into the bedroom where her father lay stricken and screaming, "Daddy!"

Alvarez, his voice choking with emotion, recalled Murray shouting, "Get them out! Get them out! Don't let them see their father like this."

Under cross-examination, Alvarez acknowledged that he had not told police in two initial interviews that Murray had ordered him to remove potential evidence.

"You didn't think it was suspicious?" asked defense lawyer Ed Chernoff.

"Apparently not, sir," he said.

"You thought he was packing up to go to the hospital, right," the lawyer asked.

"Yes, sir," Alvarez replied.

Chernoff also questioned Alvarez about his relationship with the Jackson family, who briefly employed him as a guard for the late singer's children, and his discussions with other Jackson staffers, with whom he shares an attorney.

Alvarez acknowledged that he had refused to speak to a defense investigator who had sought to interview him, but that in a police interview he had said he might sell his story to the media at a later date.

Murray, who was caring for Jackson during a comeback attempt, has pleaded not guilty and said through his lawyers that he did nothing that should have caused Jackson's death.

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