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Michael Jackson wrongful death trial: Addiction specialist testifies

July 3, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
An addiction specialist took the stand Wednesday at the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial.

Dr. Sidney Schnoll painted a picture of the king of pop as a typical pain patient -- that is, he says, until the entrance of Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray.

Schnoll reviewed 16 years of the artist's available medical records, from the time in 1993 when Jackson announced his struggle with pain medication to the day he died.

The opinion of Schnoll is that the music icon was probably drug dependent. He testified there was not enough evidence to conclude that Jackson was an addict, a person who seeks a drug to get high.

Schnoll is testifying in support of Katherine Jackson's lawsuit against concert promoter AEG Live. The expert listed Jackson's medical procedures, including scalp surgeries after pyrotechnics in a Pepsi commercial set his hair on fire.

Later, months before his death, Jackson was getting cosmetic treatments and dozens of shots of Demerol, an opioid pain medication.

Schnoll said Jackson's available medical records showed that his treatments were legitimate and that Jackson never abused drugs.

That changed, he said, as Jackson prepared for his comeback tour. It was in the same period that Murray signed on to be Jackson's personal physician. According to evidence in Murray's criminal case, Murray provided infusions of the anesthetic propofol six nights a week for two months.

The plaintiffs say Jackson's health was deteriorating. Schnoll says that when Jackson missed rehearsals in mid-June, he was showing symptoms typical of Demerol withdrawal, such as chills and runny nose. He said Murray failed to diagnose it.

Yet on cross-examination, Schnoll said the dates did not coincide with Jackson's Demerol treatments. He said it was hard to say whether Jackson was dependent on Demerol at this time.

The plaintiffs said Jackson's earnings could go into the billions of dollars. Schnoll said Jackson could have gone on to live a long and healthy life. Under defense questioning, he qualified his opinion, saying it depended on Jackson getting help for his dependency.

Katherine Jackson's attorneys allege that AEG hired Murray and had a responsibility to monitor him. AEG says Jackson selected Murray and that AEG executives were not privy to Jackson's medical care.

Meantime, outside the presence of the jury, the judge warned attorneys to heed her admonishment or they were headed for a mistrial.

The issue was raised because of a statement on Tuesday by a witness for the Jacksons. A human resources expert testified that in her opinion, AEG hired Murray. The judge says that is a determination for the jury and that the expert should not have been asked her opinion.


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