Lawyers for Michael Jackson's personal physician want to argue at his manslaughter trial that financial worries led the music superstar to take a massive and ultimately fatal dose of the surgical anesthetic propofol, according to statements in court Wednesday.
Dr. Conrad Murray's defense has said previously that Jackson drank or injected a large amount of the drug in an attempt to sleep, but at a hearing in advance of next month's trial, his lead attorney supplemented the theory with a potential motive — financial pressure on the pop icon to succeed at his latest comeback attempt.
"The crux of the defense is going to be that Jackson did a desperate act and took desperate measures that caused his own death," lawyer Ed Chernoff said in requesting access to records of three of Jackson's loans, the lion's share of close to $500 million he owed creditors at his death.
When he hired Murray, a Las Vegas cardiologist, Jackson was preparing for a series of London concerts that were to revive his flagging career and pay off some of his debts.
Murray told police that Jackson begged him for propofol to help him sleep after draining rehearsals, and said that on the night the singer died, he administered only a small amount of the drug before leaving his patient asleep in a bedroom at Jackson's rented Holmby Hills mansion. Copious amounts of propofol were found in Jackson's system.
Prosecutors, who have previously said Murray's medical care was so poor that he is culpable for Jackson's death whether or not he provided the final dose of propofol, called the financial information an attempt to "smear" Jackson's reputation.
"This is an irrelevant sideshow designed to take issues away from the jury," said Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor asked a lawyer for Jackson's estate, Howard Weitzman, to meet with Murray's lawyers, but refused to enforce a defense subpoena for the documents, calling it "major deep sea fishing."
"I am not going to turn a trial involving a charge of involuntary manslaughter into an escapade and into a detailed analysis of the finances of Michael Jackson's life," he said.
The admissibility of the financial information is expected to be among a host of evidentiary disputes the judge will decide later this month.