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Women tell of relationships with Dr. Conrad Murray

Prosecutors seek to show that the doctor was distracted with personal matters while treating Michael Jackson on the day he died.

January 08, 2011|By Harriet Ryan, Los Angeles Times

After three days of testimony about the medical care Dr. Conrad Murray gave Michael Jackson, prosecutors shifted their focus Friday to the physician's complicated personal life, summoning to the witness stand two former girlfriends and his current mistress.

Only one of the women, a Santa Monica actress with whom the married doctor now lives, testified at length about her relationship. But the decision to call the witnesses suggested prosecutors may attempt to connect Murray's numerous and expensive affairs to his desire to obtain and keep the job as Jackson's $150,000-a-month personal physician.

When he accepted the position, the doctor was in significant debt on the Las Vegas home where his wife and children lived, and behind in support payments for children he fathered outside the marriage, public records show. A prosecutor questioned his current mistress, Nicole Alvarez, the mother of his toddler son, about the $2,500 he gave her monthly for rent and her knowledge of his other obligations.

"When you began an intimate relationship with Dr. Murray … were you aware he had six other children?" Deputy Dist. Atty. Deborah Brazil asked.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor directed Alvarez not to answer, saying the question was not relevant to the purpose of the proceeding. The judge is hearing testimony to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to try Murray, 57, for involuntary manslaughter in the June 25, 2009 death of Jackson. He has pleaded not guilty.

At the time of Jackson's death, Murray was married to his medical school classmate, Blanche; helping Alvarez care for their 3-month-old son; and according to testimony, wooing a cocktail waitress from Houston, where he runs a charity clinic.

The account of that woman, Sade Anding, in court Friday bore most directly on what occurred in the pop star's mansion the morning he stopped breathing. Anding testified that she was talking on the phone with Murray when he abruptly stopped responding to her comments.

"I just remember saying, 'Hello, hello, hello! Are you there? Are you there?' " Anding recalled. She said she heard "a commotion as if the phone was in a pocket or something" followed by coughing and "mumbling of voices" that she did not recognize.

She said she called Murray back and texted him, but was unable to reach him again.

Phone records indicate he made 11 calls during the time that authorities say he should have been closely monitoring Jackson. Bridgette Morgan, who said she began dating Murray in 2003, took the stand briefly to confirm phone records that showed a seven-second call from her phone to Murray's about a half-hour before prosecutors say he discovered Jackson lifeless in bed. She said she did not reach him and was unsure if she had left a voicemail.

In sidebar conferences and a closed-door hearing with the judge, prosecutors and the defense battled over how broadly prosecutors could question the women, according to transcripts made public Friday.

Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren said phone contact between each of the women and Murray on the day the singer died "shows a distinct pattern … that he carries on personal social business when his attention should be on his patient Michael Jackson," according to a transcript. The other prosecutor, Brazil, said she wanted to question Anding about the large tip Murray left her the night they met because it showed "the financial relationship they had," according to the transcript.

The defense, however, complained "all these alleged girlfriends and cocktail waitresses" were being called in a single day "frankly just to be prejudicial," according to the transcript.

The judge limited the questions that prosecutors asked the women, but made an exception for Alvarez, whom prosecutors described as "an uncooperative witness" who refused to answer detectives' questions.

The 29-year-old said she met Murray in 2005 when he was a customer at a Las Vegas "gentlemen's club" where she worked.

Asked by Brazil if she knew the doctor was married when they met, she said she couldn't remember. She said that she knew Murray left her apartment each night to treat Jackson, but that the physician told her "absolutely nothing" about those treatments.

"Dr. Murray and I were on a need-to-know basis. He's a professional man and I know my position and my place in his life and it is not my duty to know" the details of his medical practice, she said.

Brazil showed packing slips showing six deliveries from a Las Vegas pharmacy — the pharmacy from which Murray ordered propofol, the surgical anesthetic blamed in the singer's death — to her apartment. She said she never opened the boxes or looked closely at the return addresses.

She said Murray had invited her and the baby to accompany him to London for Jackson's comeback concert series there and said she was "definitely, definitely" excited at the opportunity.

Alvarez was a prickly and at times hostile witness for the prosecution, asking Brazil to repeat questions so often that the judge admonished her to pay better attention.

When the prosecutor asked what her expectations of seeing Murray were when he was treating Jackson, she replied testily, "To begin with I don't have expectations of Dr. Murray so I wouldn't expect anything … that's just a rule I live by."

A coroner's investigator also testified that she recovered 11 bottles of propofol from Jackson's home after his death. On cross-examination, a defense attorney focused on an empty bottle of propofol and a syringe recovered from Jackson's bedroom. The defense has suggested that someone other than Murray may have injected a fatal dose of propofol.

"Was the syringe within easy reach of a person lying on the bed?" defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan asked.

The investigator, Elissa Fleak, said it was "a couple of feet" from the bed.

harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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