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Michael Jackson took drugs that 'killed him instantly,' doctor's lawyer says

Dr. Conrad Murray 'acted with gross negligence' in Michael Jackson's death, the prosecutor said in opening arguments, but the defense said the pop star ingested a lethal 'perfect storm' of drugs.

By Staff writer / September 27, 2011

Conrad Murray listens to the prosecution's opening arguments in his involuntary manslaughter trial at Superior Court, Tuesday, in Los Angeles. Murray has pleaded not guilty and faces four years in prison and the loss of his medical license if convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Michael Jackson's death.

Al Seib/AP

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Exhausted and unable to sleep amid the mounting pressures of a fast-approaching comeback concert, pop superstar Michael Jackson gave himself an accidental overdose of drugs that killed him instantly, a defense lawyer said in opening statements Tuesday at the trial of Mr. Jackson’s personal physician.

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Defense attorney Edward Chernoff told the jury of seven men and five women that his client, Dr. Conrad Murray, did not administer a lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol to Jackson in June 2009.

Instead, he said, Jackson was taking prescription medications behind Dr. Murray’s back, and gave himself a final propofol dose with Murray out of the room. The drugs created a “perfect storm in his body that killed him instantly.”

“When Dr. Murray found him, there was no CPR, or doctor, or paramedic, or machine that was going to revive Michael Jackson,” Mr. Chernoff told the jury in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. “He died so rapidly, so instantly, that he didn’t even have time to close his eyes.”

Murray, a cardiologist, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly giving Jackson a fatal dose of propofol while attempting to help Jackson overcome persistent insomnia and get some much-needed rest.

In his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney David Walgren pounded away at Murray’s actions in the final hours of the pop legend’s life.

“Conrad Murray repeatedly acted with gross negligence, repeatedly denied appropriate care to his patient Michael Jackson,” Mr. Walgren said. “It was Conrad Murray’s repeated incompetent acts that led to Mr. Jackson’s death.”

In a surprise move, Walgren played a portion of an audio recording Murray made of Jackson on his iPhone apparently during one of their sedation sessions.

On the recording, Jackson’s heavily slurred and sluggish voice can be heard discussing his hopes of a successful concert. It offered a shocking contrast to the clear, high-pitched voice that sang so many well-known hit songs over the years.

The prosecutor told the jury that the recording demonstrated Murray’s knowledge of what he was doing to Jackson. It was made roughly a month and a half before Jackson’s death.

At the center of the case is the question of how so much propofol got into Jackson’s system, and whether Murray fulfilled his professional and ethical responsibility by leaving a heavily-sedated patient unmonitored for a period of time.

Murray told investigators he went to the rest room for two minutes “maximum,” and then noticed Jackson wasn’t breathing. But Murray’s cell phone records show he conducted multiple conversations during the same period.

Walgren told the jury that Murray had agreed to serve as Jackson’s personal physician for $150,000 a month. His primary responsibility was to help Jackson overcome his insomnia.

Jackson had a preference for the anesthetic propofol. For two months, Murray facilitated that preference by administering a daily dose of propofol to Jackson to help him sleep.

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