Beverly White and David Gregory
The defense suggested sloppy investigative techniques may have compromised evidence.
Lab results presented Thursday at Dr. Conrad Murray's involuntary manslaughter trial show that Michael Jackson's fingerprints were not found on medical evidence taken from his bedroom at a rented Holmby Hills mansion.
Conrad Murray Trial: Coroner's Report, Trial Timeline, Who's Who
But investigators were not able to lift prints from several pieces of medical evidence -- nine bottles of propofol, a syringe, IV tubes and sedative vials -- and a set of mystery prints was found on other items. Prosecutors read a statement, written with defense attorneys, that informed jurors a lack of prints didn't necessarily mean the evidence wasn't handled.
Who touched the medication bottles and other medical evidence is important because prosecutors are trying to prove Dr. Murray administered the powerful anesthetic propofol, then failed to monitor his patient. But the defense argues that it was Jackson, not Murray, who administered a fatal dose of propofol June 25, 2009 -- the day the King of Pop died.
A coroner's report cited "acute propofol intoxication" in Jackson's death.
Defense attorneys hammered LA county coroner's investigator Elissa Fleak, the first witness on the stand Thursday, with questions about the investigation in Jackson's bedroom.
Dr. Murray's defense attorney, Ed Chernoff, questioned whether a "substantial number of mistakes'' had been made during the investigation in Jackson's bedroom. Fleak denied doing anything wrong, but said she handled a syringe found on the bedroom floor.
"I found that out later," Fleak said of a thumbprint she apparently left on the syringe.
She noted that she typically wears gloves during investigations. She said the print may have gotten on the syringe when she was moving a nightstand and glass table next to Jackson's bed to photograph a propofol bottle on the floor.
"I don't remember if I was wearing gloves when the tables were moved,'' she said.
Chernoff asked her, "You don't consider any of that a mistake?''
"A mistake? No,'' Fleak responded.
Deputy DA David Walgren picked up on the questioning, asking Fleak whether she conducted a "perfect investigation." She said, "No," and added that there are always things she would have done differently.
Coroner's toxicologist Dan Anderson also took the stand Thursday. He testified to the propofol found in Jackson's system in several different tests.
Jurors have heard about and seen pictures of the drugs throughout the trial's first eight days -- propofol, lidocaine, lorazepam and others. They've also heard testimony from one of Jackson's security guards, who claimed that a frantic Murray demanded he hide bottles of medicine when the two were in Jackson's bedroom just minutes before paramedics responded to the estate.
The medical evidence testimony came a day after jurors heard the King of Pop -- his words barely intelligible on a recording extracted from Murray's iPhone -- expressing his desire to wow fans during an upcoming tour. Prosecutors claim Jackson was under the influence of drugs at the time the recording was made -- about six weeks before his death.
Jackson also described plans to build a children's hospital after the "This Is It" concert series in London.
"That will be remembered more than my performances," Jackson said on the recording as family members and the jury listened in court. "My performance will be up there helping my children and always be my dream. I love them. I love them because I didn't have a childhood... I feel their pain. I feel their hurt. I can deal with it. 'Heal the World,' 'We are the World,' 'Will You be There,' 'The Lost Children,' these are the songs I've written because I hurt, you know, I hurt.''
Prosecutors were attempting to show that Dr. Murray should have realized by listening to Jackson's slurred and labored speech on May 10, 2009 that something was wrong. A few hours after playing the recording, Deputy District Attorney David Walgren methodically arranged drug bottles for display in the courtroom.
During opening statements, defense attorney Ed Chernoff pointed out Jackson's drive to please his fans. That ambition ultimately prompted him to give himself a fatal dose of medication, Chernoff argued, saying Jackson's doctor was trying to wean him off propofol.
"Michael Jackson started begging,'' Chernoff said. "When Michael Jackson told Dr. Murray, 'I have to sleep. They will cancel my performance,' he meant it."
Jackson created "a perfect storm" of drugs in his system, Chernoff said.