As jury selection began yesterday for the big and long-time-coming civil lawsuit to stem from the 2009 demise of Michael Jackson, the man the criminal courts jailed for the singer’s death, Dr Conrad Murray, has given two interviews from jail with CNN, one pre-recorded and one live.
The arrival of the Jacksons v AEG Live lawsuit in court, in which the Jackson family claim AEG is liable for the late king of pop’s death because it hired Murray, comes a week after the doctor himself filed his latest appeal papers.
In his interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, to be aired as part of a documentary later this week, the medic again pleads innocence with regard to the death of Michael Jackson, insisting that the fatal shot of propofol he administered to the singer on the morning of his death, while perhaps unusual, was not as inevitably dangerous as the prosecution stated in court.
Going over some old ground, the former doctor reasserts that Jackson’s reliance on the surgical anaesthetic to sleep predated his time working for the singer, adding that Jackson had a pre-existing supply of the drug when he first met him. And Murray again asserts that he was in the process of weaning his patient off his reliance on propofol in the weeks before the singer’s death.
Arguing that he himself expressed concern over Jackson’s routine use of propofol when first made aware of it, Murray tells CNN: “Michael felt that it was not an issue because he had been exposed to it for years and he knew exactly how things worked. And given the situation at the time, it was my approach to try to get him off of it, but Michael Jackson was not the kind of person you can just say, ‘Put it down’ and he’s going to do that”.
In both the interview and his latest appeal papers Murray once again also hones in on the concurrent treatment Jackson was receiving from his long-time friend Dr Arnold Klein in the weeks before his death. In Murray’s criminal trial the judge deemed that any prescription drugs provided to Jackson by Klein – mainly the painkiller Demerol – were not relevant because those medications were not in the singer’s system at the time of his death.
But Murray and his legal team have long claimed that it was Klein’s treatment of Jackson – of which Murray says he was not aware at the time – that caused the insomnia that led to the singer requiring propofol to sleep, and that the judge was therefore wrong to refuse to call Klein to testify in Murray’s manslaughter case. Murray: “I didn’t know he [Jackson] was an addict. He was going to Dr Klein’s office and being loaded up with humongous levels of Demerol. Basically this was causing his insomnia because that’s a huge side effect”.
Despite giving media interviews to coincide with the Jacksons v AEG case getting to court (including a bizarre moment in the live CNN spot where he sang a Nat King Cole song), Murray is expected to resist efforts to make him testify. That Murray’s negligence caused Jackson’s demise is taken as read in the civil case. AEG will argue, though, that the doctor was appointed by the singer himself at the outset of the company’s business partnership with Jackson, and that they are therefore not liable for his actions, even if they ultimately paid his bills.
Indeed, in a new interview for the same CNN documentary, a legal rep for the live firm, Marvin Putnam points to an earlier TV conversation Murray gave in which he said he was under the impression he was in the employ of Michael Jackson, even though AEG was writing the cheques. Putnam says of the doctor: “He was chosen by Michael Jackson. He was brought to Los Angeles by Michael Jackson. He had been Michael Jackson’s long-time physician and continued in that capacity and was directed by him and could only be fired at will by him”.
With jury selection now underway, it is not clear whether the world at large will get to watch the proceedings of The Jacksons v AEG Live on their TV screens. The Judge overseeing the case, Yvette Palazuelos, previously ruled that the case would not be televised, but both CNN and NBC yesterday submitted requests that she reconsider. The Jackson side of the battle also support the admission of TV cameras into the courtroom, but AEG’s reps do not, arguing that newspaper reporting can provide public scrutiny of the case, and that TV cameras will simply result in a media circus around the trial.