Michael Jackson doctor's defense to focus on second syringe

An attorney for the doctor facing an involuntary manslaughter charge in the death of pop star Michael Jackson indicated at a hearing Wednesday that the defense will focus on a second syringe found at the singer's bedside.

Attorney J. Michael Flanagan, representing Dr. Conrad Murray, told the judge the syringe may have been used by someone other than the doctor to administer the powerful anesthetic that caused Jackson's death June 25, 2009.

"Who injected the propofol? That's the issue in this case," Flanagan told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor.

Wednesday's hearing was over a defense request for a court order allowing the county coroner's office to test the quantity of the drugs in two syringes and an IV bag found in Jackson's room at the Holmby Hills mansion he was leasing. One syringe was connected to the IV and clearly used by Murray to administer drugs, Flanagan said. The other was found on the floor, broken, with an unidentified fingerprint, according to the attorney.

"We all know which syringe the doctor used," Flanagan said, comparing the situation with police finding two .38-caliber guns at a crime scene and figuring out "which of these guns did it."

In early statements to police, Murray said he gave the singer 25 milligrams — half the regular dose. In his argument, Flanagan implied that the dosage administered by Murray may not explain the amount of the drug in Jackson's blood. A mix of propofol and lidocaine were found in both syringes, Flanagan said.

"The evidence is going to show later in the case that a very large dose of propofol is needed to get to the level in Michael Jackson's blood," the attorney said.

Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren said the defense appeared to be gearing up to argue that the second syringe was used by the singer to administer propofol to himself.

"I think it's clear they're operating under the theory that the victim in this case, Michael Jackson, killed himself," he told the judge. "They don't want to say it. They're walking around it."

Outside court, Flanagan declined to comment on the prosecutor's statement, saying, "That was his assessment."

Pastor told the attorneys that he would allow the coroner to conduct the test if Murray's defense acknowledges they were notified of the "risks and limitations" associated with testing the limited sample. He said he is also willing to allow both sides to split the sample if the defense wanted an outside lab to conduct the test.

A preliminary hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence for Murray's trial to go forward is scheduled to begin Tuesday.

victoria.kim@latimes.com

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