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Michael Jackson doctor declines to testify. Was that his last, best chance?

Both the prosecution and the defense rested in the involuntary murder trial of Michael Jackson's physician as Dr. Conrad Murray declined to testify. Cross examination would have been brutal, analysts say.

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In the contest between dueling medical experts, the prosecution appears to have scored a major victory. Dr. Steven Shafer, an anesthesiology specialist at Columbia University, converted the courtroom into a classroom, leading the jurors through the potentially confusing world of sedation and anesthetics, all the while explaining routine safeguards that Murray by-passed or ignored.

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Dr. Shafer likely scored major points when jurors learned that as a matter of policy he does not charge a fee for his work on cases like Jackson’s.

In contrast, defense expert Dr. Paul White, also a well-respected anesthesiologist and research scientist, testified that he had been paid $11,000 for a portion of his work. He noted that he would not charge his usual fee because he said he did not believe the defense could pay it.

Although Dr. White tried to undercut Shafer’s analysis, White seemed handcuffed by the burden of having to justify some of the shoddy and questionable practices allegedly undertaken by Murray.

At one point he was asked about Murray’s 20-minute delay in calling 911. White suggested that a doctor might not have time initially – in the first few minutes of an emergency – to make the call himself. But White never offered an explanation of why it might be better to wait 20 minutes as Murray did.

Asked whether Murray should have told the responding paramedics – and later, the emergency room doctors – that he had administered propofol to Jackson prior to the incident – White said it wasn’t necessary to Jackson’s emergency treatment because the effect of the propofol would have been greatly reduced by then.

The response did little to remove the strong suggestion that Murray was trying to cover up his conduct.

A number of medical experts testified that propofol was not a recognized sleep aid. They said it should never be administered in a bedroom as had been the case with Jackson. They stressed that propofol is almost always administered in a hospital or clinic with a full array of monitoring and resuscitation equipment close at hand.

In one illustration of the weakness of the defense case, Deputy District Attorney Walgren asked White, the defense expert, whether he would administer propofol in a private bedroom as Murray had done to Jackson.

“I would never administer propofol in a bedroom,” the defense expert said.

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