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8 Oct 2011


Conrad Murray Trial: How Damaging Are the Interrogation Tapes? 


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 For the first time, jurors in the Michael Jackson death case this week heard the tapes of Dr. Conrad Murray telling police his version of events from the night Jackson died.

The calm, methodical interview had never been played publicly and gave Jackson fans a chance to hear Murray's account of the singer's final moments alive.

Murray told police that Michael Jackson fell into a cardiac arrest when he left the singer briefly to go to the bathroom, and he didn't call 911 immediately because "to speak to a 911 operator would be to neglect" the singer.

Former prosecutor Ricki Klieman analyzed the impact of the interrogation tapes.

"On the defense side, it probably actually was a good day, because the prosecution has tried to paint him as a philandering older doctor who cared more about all of his girlfriends and didn't really care about his patients except for celebrities. Here he sounds reasonable, cautious, concerned, caring for his patients step by step," she said.

"The other side from the prosecution's point of view, it's a banner day, because not only do we have Conrad Murray saying that he administered propofol as well as all of the other tranquilizers that are in Michael Jackson's system, but he is fixed in his timeline, and his timeline is directly contradicted by all of those cell phone calls."

She said hearing Michael Jackson begging for the drug propofol helps Murray.

"Michael Jackson is begging for it, but is Murray the doctor or is he the supplier? Who is in charge?"

Murray could face four years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the singer's death. The interview occurred on June 27, 2009 at the Ritz Carlton in Marina del Rey, Calif., where Murray's attorneys were staying.

"I love Mr. Jackson," Murray said. "He was my friend and he opened up to me in different ways, and I wanted to help him as much as I can. He was a single parent. ... I always thought about his children.

"I wanted to give him the best chance," said Murray of his efforts to save the singer.

Evidence in Conrad Murray Manslaughter Trial

In the tapes, which were played for jurors Friday, Murray, at times, described his friend as a chemically addicted man who had a deep "pharmacological knowledge." He told police Jackson's veins were "dried up" like an old man's, making it difficult to find sites to inject an IV.

Of Jackson's health, he said that the singer was "very thin," had trouble with his right hip and suffered from a toe fungus.

When asked about whether Murray knew if Jackson saw any other doctors, Murray said, "He never disclosed that to me, but because he moved around so much, I would assume that he was."

On nightstands next to the bed where Jackson died and where Murray administered propofol to the singer were vials of prescription pills prescribed by at least two other doctors besides Murray, according to pictures shown to jurors and trial testimony.

Murray said that when Jackson asked him to be his personal physician, accompanying him on his comeback tour dubbed "This Is It," he had no idea that he would spend six nights a week administering the powerful anesthetic, propofol, to the singer.

"That was not my purpose of joining his team," Murray told police. "I was there to help him, and I was going to be available should something go wrong.

"What I was recognizing was Michael Jackson might have had a dependency to a substance," Murray added. "I was trying to wean him off."

Murray told police that in the three days before Jackson died, he had begun the weaning process. He said that the first day, he gave Jackson a small dose of propofol and on the second day, he gave him no propofol at all. But on the third day, Jackson returned from a night of rehearsing and he was wide awake.

The doctor had been summoned to Jackson's home after midnight on June 25, 2009, the day Jackson died. Jackson entered the home a short time later after rehearsing at the Staples Center.

Jackson told Murray that he was tired and felt fatigued. He told the doctor, "I'm treated like I'm a machine. ... Let me just have a quick shower and change and I'll come back to you." 

Conrad Murray Left Michael Jackson for 'Short Time'

When Jackson returned, Murray rubbed his body with cream to treat the singer's vitiligo, a condition that discolors the skin. The singer took a valium and Murray put an IV near Jackson's knee and began administering doses of two sedatives, lorazepam and midazolam.

At 3 a.m., Jackson was still awake.

"I said: How about if you try to meditate?" Murray told police. "Let's change the lighting of the room, let's lower the music ... let me rub your feet and try to relax."

Jackson fell asleep for 10 or 15 minutes and awakened again. Murray said that nothing seemed to be working to get the singer to sleep, that he double-checked Jackson's IV because he couldn't understand how he was still awake after receiving several doses of the sedatives.

After 10 a.m., Jackson told Murray, "Please give me some milk so I can sleep because I know that's all that works for me."

Milk was Jackson's nickname for the white-colored propofol.

Finally, at 10:50 a.m., Murray said Jackson finally fell asleep after he administered the propofol.

"I made sure that there was oxygen on the bedside. ... I had a pulse oximeter ... that shows the amount of oxygen that he has in his blood and also allows me to look at the heart rate," Murray told investigators.

Murray said he gave Jackson just 25 milligrams of propofol.

Prosecutors say that Murray recklessly administered the drug and didn't properly monitor Jackson. They claim the oxygen tank was empty and that the pulse oximeter didn't have an audible alarm to alert someone if something was wrong.

Murray's phone records and the testimony of his girlfriends revealed that he exchanged texts and calls with at least four women on the morning Jackson died.

Murray told investigators that he went to the bathroom for a short time and returned to a lifeless Jackson.

Murray said he immediately began trying to ventilate Jackson through CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He added that because Jackson didn't have a landline, it made it difficult to call for help.

"To speak to a 911 operator would be to neglect him," he said. "I want to ventilate him, do chest compressions enough to give him an opportunity."

He said that he felt a pulse in Jackson's groin area and administered CPR on Jackson's bed because he couldn't move him to the floor alone.

He said that while he administered CPR with one hand, he called Jackson's assistant on his cell phone for help but didn't advise him to call 911. Eventually, a bodyguard would run into the bedroom and call 911.

Murray showed little emotion as the tape played.

The police interview followed the playing of surveillance video of Murray leaving the UCLA Medical Center after Jackson was declared dead.

Det. Scott Smith of the Los Angeles Police Department told jurors that he went to the hospital on the day Jackson died, but was unable to track down Murray for an interview. He did talk briefly to Jackson's bodyguard and driver.

Smith added that the day after Jackson died, Jackson's family alerted him and the coroner of additional evidence found in the master bathroom of Jackson's mansion.

Pictures of the master bathroom showed a messy space with drawers open, notes taped to windows and things covering the floor.

The evidence included three empty pill bottles and a shaving bag full of rotten marijuana. Smith said police at first thought the marijuana was heroin.

ABC News' Jim Avila and Kaitlyn Folmer contributed to this report.  


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