Defense grills investigator about search of Michael Jackson’s bedroom


Photo courtesy of CNN

Deputy district attorney David Walgren holds an intravenous line found at Michael Jackson’s residence during Conrad Murray’s trial in Los Angeles on Oct. 6, 2011.

CNN Wire Service

Conrad Murray’s lawyer suggested Thursday that a coroner’s investigator made “substantial mistakes” when she searched Michael Jackson’s bedroom after the pop icon’s death and that she has made significant changes in her testimony since the preliminary hearing last January.

The start of testimony Thursday, the eighth day of the involuntary manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor, was delayed when the judge raised concern that medical information about Jackson’s children were displayed in court Wednesday when the prosecution showed their father’s medical records.

“These are records that involve minor children of the decedent in this case, and I have very real concerns about their privacy,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said.

County Coroner’s toxicologist Dan Anderson, who studied the drugs in Jackson’s body, began his testimony Thursday morning as the prosecution introduces scientific evidence that is key to their effort to prove that Murray is criminally responsible for his death.

The pathologist who conducted Jackson’s autopsy and ruled his death a homicide could testify later Thursday or Friday, based on the order of witnesses followed by the prosecution in the preliminary hearing.

Jurors should also soon hear the two-hour interview Murray gave to police two days after Jackson’s June 25, 2009, death of what the coroner concluded was the result of “acute propofol intoxication” in combination with sedatives.

On Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney David Walgren covered a table with drug vials and medical paraphernalia taken in Coroner’s Investigator Elissa Fleak’s searches, a visual display of Murray’s in-home treatment of Jackson.

Fleak identified a saline bag that was cut open with an empty 100-milliliter propofol bottle inside. The prosecution alleges Murray used it as a makeshift IV drip to administer propofol to Jackson. The defense contends Murray gave Jackson just 25 milliliters of the surgical anesthetic and used a syringe to push it in.

Fleak, however, acknowledged under cross-examination Thursday that she never wrote in a report that the bottle was inside the bag until March of this year. She did, however, mention it at in her preliminary hearing in January

Murray’s fingerprint was found on that 100-milliliter propofol bottle that prosecutors contend led to Jackson’s death, according to a fingerprint analysis accepted by both the prosecution and defense Thursday.

At that January hearing, Fleak testified that she found a broken syringe plunger on the nightstand next to Jackson’s bed, with a needle on the floor below.

But Fleak’s trial testimony is that she was mistaken about the needle matching up to the syringe. She only realized this after a meeting this year with the prosecutor, she acknowledged when lead defense lawyer Ed Chernoff questioned her.

She also conceded that she moved the syringe before photographs of it were taken and that her fingerprint was later found on it.

“You made substantial mistakes in your investigation?” Chernoff asked.

“No,” Fleak replied.

Fleak also revealed that she destroyed her handwritten notes from her June 25, 2009, search, but not the notes from the June 29, 2009, search. She said it is her routine practice to destroy her notes after she writes a report.

Twelve bottles of propofol were found in the bedroom during her first search the day Jackson died, including an empty vial found on the floor next to the bed, Fleak said.

Seven bottles of medications were on a nightstand next to the bed, including one with lorazepam pills prescribed by Murray to Jackson.

Murray’s defense lawyers say Jackson caused his own death by swallowing eight lorazepam pills and orally ingesting propofol while Murray was out of the room.

Although crucial to prove that Murray is criminally responsible for the pop icon’s death, Thursday’s forensic testimony is not likely to match Wednesday’s emotional drama when jurors heard Jackson’s slurred voice telling his doctor, “I hurt, you know, I hurt.”

A photograph of Jackson lying dead on a hospital gurney was later projected onto a large screen in the courtroom, a vivid reminder to jurors of why they will listen to a least a month of testimony.

While the court camera feed focused on the disturbing image for just five seconds – the result of an earlier decision to minimize public exposure to such shocking images – it was displayed on a large screen in front of the jury for about two minutes.

Forensic computer expert Stephen Marx, who found the Jackson audio file on Murray’s iPhone, said it was recorded on May 10, 2009, when Jackson was preparing for his “This Is It” concerts set for London two months later.

Prosecutors, who played a clip of the audio in their opening statement last week, let the jury hear the entire recording at the trial Wednesday.

“Elvis didn’t do it. Beatles didn’t do it. We have to be phenomenal,” Jackson said. “When people leave this show, when people leave my show, I want them to say, ‘I’ve never seen nothing like this in my life. Go. Go. I’ve never seen nothing like this. Go. It’s amazing. He’s the greatest entertainer in the world.’ I’m taking that money, a million children, children’s hospital, the biggest in the world, Michael Jackson Children’s Hospital. Going to have a movie theater, game room.”

In the portion never before heard in court, Jackson talked about his life and concern for children:

“Children are depressed. The — in those hospitals, no game room, no movie theater. They’re sick because they’re depressed. Their mind is depressing them. I want to give them that. I care about them, them angels. God wants me to do it. God wants me to do it. I’m going to do it, Conrad.”

Another voice, which the prosecutor said was Murray’s, is heard saying, “I know you would.”

“Don’t have enough hope, no more hope,” Jackson said. “That’s the next generation that’s going to save our planet, starting with — we’ll talk about it. United States, Europe, Prague, my babies. They walk around with no mother. They drop them off, they leave — a psychological degradation of that. They reach out to me: ‘Please take me with you.’ “

At the end, Jackson said he was “going to do that for them.”

“That will be remembered more than my performances. My performances will be up there helping my children and always be my dream. I love them. I love them because I didn’t have a childhood. I had no childhood. I feel their pain. I feel their hurt. I can deal with it. ‘Heal the World,’ ‘We Are the World,’ ‘Will You Be There,’ ‘The Lost Children.’ These are the songs I’ve written because I hurt, you know, I hurt.”

At the end, Jackson told the doctor, “I am asleep.”

In court, his brother Jermaine Jackson wiped tears from his eyes as he listened.

Prosecutors argue that Murray, who was Jackson’s personal doctor as he prepared for planned comeback concerts, is criminally responsible for the singer’s death because of medical negligence and his reckless use of the propofol to help Jackson sleep.

If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Murray could spend four years in a California prison and lose his medical license.