LOS ANGELES — Dr. Conrad Murray heard his own expert witness testify Monday that he wouldn’t have accepted payment to do what Murray did for Michael Jackson — administering a hospital anesthetic in the star’s bedroom.
“I wouldn’t even consider it,” Dr. Paul White said. “It’s something no amount of money could convince me to take on.”
The use of the drug propofol to treat Jackson’s insomnia was “a complete off-label use of the drug,” he said. White also acknowledged that the drug should never be given outside a medical facility because of the need for proper lifesaving equipment.
White, a highly regarded and now-retired anesthesiologist, is sometimes referred to as “the father of propofol” for his early research on the drug. But on Monday he was a less than respected figure, drawing criticism from the prosecutor and censure from the judge who threatened to fine him $1,000 for contempt of court.
White came under a bruising cross-examination by prosecutor David Walgren who attacked the expert’s recent claim that Jackson caused his own death. Walgren questioned White’s scientific calculations and noted he once led the defence to think Jackson drank an extra dose of propofol.
White acknowledged he had done no research on that theory when he posed it. A study later showed the theory to be unsupportable, he said.
While stopping short of blaming Murray for the singer’s death, White blurted out during cross-examination that he believed Murray had loaded a syringe with the drug propofol and left it where Jackson could have gained access to it.
That scenario had not been offered before and it could explain how a groggy Jackson could have awakened from sedation, grabbed the syringe and injected the drug into his IV line.
Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor told White outside the jury’s presence to stop trying to sneak in references to 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.
At one point Monday, White said he had been told by Murray that Jackson had his own stash of propofol beyond the hundreds of bottles of the drug that Murray had purchased and shipped to his girlfriend’s apartment. Pastor warned White not to try to bring up the conversations or other excluded information again.
“It’s deliberate and I don’t like it,” Pastor said. “It’s not going to happen again.”
But by the end of the morning the judge said White had violated his order. Outside the jury’s presence, he chastised the witness for telling the jurors at one point: “I’d like to talk to you about this but the judge told me I couldn’t.”
He 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.
White was repeatedly questioned about the ways in which Murray had broken guidelines and rules governing the use of propofol. Walgren confronted the witness with excerpts from his own writings in textbooks which set down rules that Murray broke by administering the drug in Jackson’s bedroom.
Murray, who has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, has acknowledged he was giving Jackson doses of the anesthetic propofol in the singer’s bedroom as a sleep aid. He told police that he left Jackson’s room for two minutes on June 25, 2009, and returned to find the pop superstar unresponsive.
White said in forming his opinions, he assumed Murray was out of the room much longer, making phone calls.
The retired anesthesiologist also said he would not leave the room if he were treating a patient who had indicated he liked to inject propofol into himself, as Murray claims that Jackson had told him.