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Conrad Murray trial: Defense challenges propofol expert

October 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
During day 15 of the Conrad Murray trial, lead defense attorney Ed Chernoff challenged the prosecution's propofol expert on his explanation of how Michael Jackson could have gotten a deadly dose of propofol.

It was Dr. Steven Shafer's fourth day on the witness stand, which included elaborate demonstrations and PowerPoint presentations. On Friday, defense attorney Ed Chernoff was finally able to cross examine the anesthesiology expert.

Get complete coverage of the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter.

"You understand that everything that you said in the last two days was your opinion, you do understand that, right?" Chernoff said in court.

At issue was Shafer's conclusion that Murray set up an unregulated IV drip of propofol, and then abandoned Jackson, who later died of acute propofol intoxication.

The defense challenged that scenario, saying bottles and syringes were found in Jackson's bedroom, but not the IV line Shafer used during a demonstration.

Follow @abc7MurrayTrial on Twitter to get the latest updates on the involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray.

Shafer confirmed that the line he used for the demonstration was one he purchased, but suggested that the one used by Murray was taken away before investigators arrived in Jackson's bedroom.

"It's so easy to remove," Shafer testified.

On Shafer's theory that Murray slit a saline bag to hold a propofol bottle, Chernoff forced him to admit he's never seen anyone do that. Shafer said he was making his statements based on the evidence he was presented with.

The defense suggested that Shafer got the idea from reading the testimony of a Jackson staff member who said Murray asked him to stuff the items in a bag before the medics arrived.

Chernoff continued to press Shafer on how he could've come to his conclusions without having been in the room with Murray and Jackson.

"Dr. Shafer, I'm not asking you about your simulations. I'm asking, what did the coroner say is his brain propofol level?" Chernoff asked.

J. Christopher Smith, a legal expert, said Chernoff did an effective job in pointing out that Shafer may not be perfect.

"Dr. Shafer needs to appear neutral, and I think now, Mr. Chernoff is making a very good argument that he's not neutral," Smith said.

Murray's defense team has argued that Jackson likely gave himself the fatal dose of propofol. Shafer admitted during cross examination that it was possible, but still blamed Murray.

"This is a foreseeable consequence of setting up an essentially dangerous way of giving drugs," Shafer testified.

In a development outside the presence of the jury, a key defense witness was admonished by Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor. Dr. Paul White was apparently upset by testimony on Thursday that disparaged the research he did on propofol, and told reporters that Deputy District Attorney David Walgren was a "scumbag." He also allegedly made comments about Shafer.

Pastor ordered White to appear at a hearing set for Nov. 16.

Murray is on trial for involuntary manslaughter for Jackson's sudden death on June 25, 2009, at the age of 50. Prosecutors allege Murray tried to hide the fact that he had been giving propofol to Jackson.

Murray, 58, has pleaded not guilty and has denied any wrongdoing. If convicted, he could face up to four years in prison and lose his medical license.

The trial is expected to last five weeks, with Oct. 28 being the estimated last day.

View photos from the involuntary manslaughter trial of Conrad Murray.


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