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Doctor describes a fearful Jackson, desperate for sleep

Defense witness in Dr. Conrad Murray's trial testifies that the pop singer was worried about his concert tour and asked for intravenous drugs, saying oral medications didn't work.

October 24, 2011|By Victoria Kim and Harriet Ryan, Los Angeles Times
  • Dr. Allan Metzger testified that Michael Jackson asked for some "juice," but didn't mention propofol by name.
Dr. Allan Metzger testified that Michael Jackson asked for some "juice,"… (Paul Buck/AFP/Getty Images )

Michael Jackson's friend and former physician testified Monday that the singer was searching for drugs to help him sleep two months before his death, "fearful" about his upcoming comeback tours in London.

The testimony of Dr. Allan Metzger in the first day of Dr. Conrad Murray's defense offered the first glimpse of a portrayal of Jackson that Murray's attorneys had hinted at all along — a pop star under mounting pressure who was seeking medication to help him cope.

Attorneys for Murray in the doctor's involuntary manslaughter trial have suggested that Jackson died by his own hand when he awoke from sedation and injected himself with the surgical anesthetic propofol and swallowed a second drug. They contend that Jackson was desperate enough to take drastic actions that ended his own life.

Prosecutors say that Murray caused the death of his famed charge by recklessly administering a fatal quantity of propofol, then leaving him unattended.

Metzger, who said he became a confidant and friend after treating the singer for more than 15 years, said Jackson asked for intravenous drugs as he spoke of his anxiety about performing at the sold-out, 50-show concert series.

"His fear was that this was a big obligation," Metzger, a Beverly Hills internist, testified. "He realized it was a huge ordeal to do that."

Metzger said Jackson was also excited and believed he was "up to the task," but was deeply concerned about his health and especially his inability to sleep. In the April 18, 2009, meeting at his home, Jackson asked about getting intravenous sleep medication, saying drugs taken orally didn't work, the doctor recalled.

Metzger said Jackson did not ask about a specific drug by name, but mentioned he wanted "some form of an anesthetic."

"I think he used the word 'juice,' " referring to intravenous drugs, Metzger said. Jackson did not mention propofol, the surgical anesthetic that killed him, the doctor testified.

Under cross-examination by a prosecutor, Metzger said he advised Jackson against using such drugs for insomnia.

"When Michael Jackson inquired about intravenous sleep medication, you explained to him that was dangerous, life-threatening and should not be done outside of a hospital, is that correct?" Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren asked.

"That's correct," he replied.

Asked by Walgren if there was "any amount of money" that would have convinced him to give Jackson propofol at his home, Metzger said: "Definitely not."

The physician was the fifth witness to be called by Murray's defense after prosecutors wrapped up their four-week case against the doctor Monday morning. The government's final witness, anesthesiologist Dr. Steven Shafer, said his calculations, based on the drug levels found at the autopsy, ruled out a scenario in which Jackson injected himself.

Defense attorney Ed Chernoff remarked in his cross-examination that the hypothetical scenarios Shafer proposed and ruled out one by one were selected "out of thin air."

Shafer, who used models based on research data to chart how different doses and methods of administering propofol would have affected Jackson, noted that he had no choice but to speculate about what happened in the hours leading up to Jackson's death because Murray kept no records — something he said in earlier testimony was an egregious violation of standard of care.

Murray's attorneys had initially sought to call a string of witnesses to portray Jackson as a drug addict "on the hunt" for the surgical anesthetic that killed him, but most were barred by the judge overseeing the trial.

A second medical professional also took the stand Monday and recalled how Jackson came to her looking for a way to be able to sleep through the night. Nurse practitioner Cherilyn Lee, who described herself as a holistic practitioner, said she recommended a sleep study and an array of tests to determine why Jackson was having trouble sleeping.

"He said he didn't have time for all that," Lee recalled.

victoria.kim@latimes.com

harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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