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Michael Jackson begged for propofol, detective says in recapping Conrad Murray's statement

The doctor said he had weaned Jackson off the drug but felt 'pressured' to administer it again.

January 11, 2011|By Harriet Ryan, Los Angeles Times

Dr. Conrad Murray told detectives that Michael Jackson begged him for propofol on the day he died, saying his long-awaited comeback would never happen if the physician didn't put him to sleep with the drug he called "milk," according to court testimony Monday.

A homicide investigator said Murray described himself as "pressured" into administering the surgical anesthetic despite concerns that the 50-year-old music legend had become addicted as he prepared for a series of concerts in London.

"Mr. Jackson began to complain to him that he couldn't sleep and that he would have to cancel his rehearsals and cancel his shows," Los Angeles police detective Orlando Martinez said in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Prosecutors summoned Martinez to the witness stand as they headed into the home stretch of a hearing to determine whether they have enough evidence to try Murray, 57, for involuntary manslaughter in the pop star's June 25, 2009, death from an overdose of propofol. The prosecution is expected to wrap up its presentation later this week.

Murray has pleaded not guilty.

The broad strokes of Murray's account to police — including his claim that he was in the restroom when Jackson stopped breathing — have already been made public, but the detective's testimony added additional details, such as the doctor's explanation for not calling for an ambulance immediately.

"He said he was caring for his patient and did not want to neglect him," Martinez said.

"Did he indicate that calling for a 911 operator would be neglecting him?" asked Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren.

"Yes," the detective said.

Murray, a cardiologist, has been criticized for trying to perform CPR while Jackson was in the bed; Martinez said that when he asked the doctor about it, Murray claimed he wasn't able to move Jackson to the floor.

The testimony drew snorts from a contingent of Jackson fans in the spectator's gallery. Martinez noted that the strapping physician, who stands 6 feet, 5 inches, outweighed the emaciated singer by 90 pounds.

Murray walked away from the hospital where Jackson was pronounced dead before homicide detectives had a chance to interview him, but two days later, he and two lawyers met with investigators in a Marina del Rey hotel.

Murray told them that he had been giving Jackson propofol to sleep for two months but had weaned him off it two days before his death, with the singer's permission. He said that on the day Jackson died, he tried to get him to sleep with a series of other sedatives and by encouraging his patient to try "meditating" but that ultimately Jackson insisted on propofol.

The doctor gave a timeline that appears an hour off from the chronology prosecutors have established with phone records and other witness accounts, according to Martinez's testimony.

The detectives said Murray recalled sitting with Jackson until about 11 a.m., then leaving for two minutes to use the restroom. He said that when he returned he was "stunned" to find that Jackson was not breathing. Other witness testimony and cellphone records indicate that Murray made his discovery at noon.

Under cross-examination, the detective acknowledged that the physician told him Jackson had concealed his long history of using propofol with other doctors when he hired Murray.

"Dr. Murray said to you that he didn't sign up for this, that he found out about Michael Jackson's desire for propofol after the fact?" asked defense lawyer Ed Chernoff.

"Correct," Martinez replied.

Judge Michael Pastor also heard testimony from the owner of a Las Vegas pharmacy that filled Murray's phone orders for propofol. Pharmacist Tim Lopez said Murray never mentioned that the pop star was his only patient at the time and instead led him to believe the 255 vials of propofol he requested were being used for patients at a Los Angeles clinic.

In reality, the four shipments Murray placed, including a final order 10 days before Jackson's death, went to the Santa Monica apartment where Murray's mistress and infant son lived. Lopez said that when he volunteered to personally deliver an order during a trip to Los Angeles, Murray told him not to.

"He said just FedEx it the way we normally do," Lopez recalled.

If convicted, Murray faces up to four years in prison.

harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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