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Conrad Murray trial: Defense witness fined for contempt of court

October 31, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The judge in the Conrad Murray trial fined a key defense witness for a remark that was considered a direct contempt of court.

Deputy District Attorney David Walgren grilled the defense's propofol expert, Dr. Paul White, during day 21 of the involuntary manslaughter trial.

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

Under aggressive cross examination, White admitted on Monday that Murray, at the very least, deviated from the standard of care by providing Michael Jackson with propofol in a home setting, saying it could be dangerous and even deadly.

White, a retired and highly regarded anesthesiologist, is sometimes referred to as "the father of propofol" for his early research on the drug. He testified that he has so far been paid $11,000 by the defense for his work on the case.

There were several tense exchanges between Walgren and White.

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

"Be clear, you think it was just a detail that was overlooked when Conrad Murray failed to advise paramedics he had been administering propofol, is that your testimony?" Walgren asked White.

"I don't think I used those words," White testified. "A small dose of propofol could not be reversed."

"Did you understand my question to ask you if propofol could be reversed, is that how you construed by question?" Walgren asked. "OK, then please listen to the question, and please try to answer my question."

Not long after that exchange, Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor dismissed jurors to meet with attorneys and White to ask that they minimize those types of exchanges.

Pastor also told White outside the jury's presence to stop intentionally mentioning information gathered in private conversations he had with Murray. The witness had suggested his opinions were partially based on what Murray told him, but those talks are not in evidence.

But by the end of the morning, the judge said White had violated his order.

Outside the jury's presence, the judge chastised White for telling the jurors at one point: "I'd like to talk to you about this but the judge told me I couldn't."

Pastor said he considered that remark direct contempt of court but would allow White to explain at a contempt hearing on Nov. 16 before he imposes the $1,000 fine.

"The witness tried to introduce hearsay, statements of Dr. Murray that this jury had not heard," said George Bird, a criminal defense specialist. "While it helped him formulate his theory, the judge ruled this was not coming into evidence in front of this jury.

Bird said the prosecution's cross examination was effective.

"The prosecution is going to argue that Dr. Murray brought a bomb into that bedroom, and whether Michael Jackson touched the bomb doesn't matter," Bird said. "When it went off it was because Dr. Murray brought the bomb into that bedroom."

Attorneys and Murray were ordered to be in court at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to discuss the prosecution's remaining exhibits, the defense's exhibits and whether Murray wants to testify. Trial will resume at 9:30 a.m.

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.

View photos from the involuntary manslaughter trial of Conrad Murray.

ABC7 reporter Robert Holguin contributed to this report.


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