LOS ANGELES (KABC) — A drug addiction expert testified Tuesday that Michael Jackson’s use of drugs put him on a dangerous road that was likely to shorten his life.
Jackson’s use of prescription drugs was secretive, according to testimony. Jurors have heard he used fake names. His use of propofol to sleep at a hotel and at his home was never recorded in medical records. Was Jackson addicted to propofol?
“I don’t think there’s sufficient evidence from the record reading to ascertain whether he was addicted to either propofol or benzodiazepine. There are suggestions in the record, but there’s not sufficient information,” Dr. Paul Earley, a defense expert on anesthesia, had said in a video deposition.
Testifying in person on Tuesday, Earley says propofol studies are scant. Documented cases of dependency are rare and that most addicts are healthcare professionals who obtain it through surgery centers. The anesthetic is not available in retail pharmacies. Earley testified that he has studied 26 propofol addicts in his 30 years of practice.
Attorneys for concert promoter AEG Live claim that Jackson’s habit was so unusual, even those closest to the star were unaware that Dr. Conrad Murray was infusing Jackson with propofol as an insomnia treatment in the two months before Jackson died of an overdose.
Earley testified there was even more that put Jackson at risk of death. He said that Jackson was addicted to opioids and the mix is potentially lethal. Earley pointed to multiple incidents when Jackson stopped breathing while under sedation.
Katherine Jackson has not been in court for the last two weeks. Her attorneys claim that Michael Jackson’s health declined as he prepared for his comeback tour and that AEG failed to supervise Murray, the doctor that AEG conditionally agreed to hire at Jackson’s request.
Regarding Earley, the Jackson attorneys are raising questions about his credibility. Earley completed a propofol study with $53,000 provided by AEG.
Earley says he properly disclosed the funding source and that the report did not form the basis of his opinion on this case.
Meantime, an outlook for the length of the case: there’s a week and a half more for the defense. The Jackson attorneys say they will then put on their rebuttal case calling as many as four more witnesses.
Michael Jackson death trial takes odd twist
Los Angeles (CNN) — The co-author of a study on propofol addiction funded by AEG Live and used in their defense in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial lost his medical license for writing illegal drug prescriptions, according to testimony.
Dr. Torin Finver was hired to help with the AEG Live study after he lost his job at a pizza parlor and took a job driving a Goodwill truck, said Dr. Paul Earley, who testified Wednesday as an expert witness for the concert promoter.
Finver was “destitute, dead broke, and I wanted to help him,” Earley, himself a recovering heroin addict, testified.
The revelation was a bizarre twist in the trial of the billion-dollar lawsuit filed by Jackson’s mother and three children, which is being heard by a Los Angeles jury. The four-month-long trial is nearing a conclusion.
AEG Live lawyers will announce if they have any more witnesses to call before playing the video depositions of three more doctors on Friday. Jackson lawyers would then take several days to call rebuttal witnesses before closing arguments are heard, which is likely to happened around September 23.
Earley testified that he never disclosed to AEG Live lawyers that his co-author had lost his medical license. Ironically, the company is being accused of the negligent hiring of Dr. Conrad Murray, convicted in Jackson’s death because it allegedly failed to check Murray’s background before hiring him.
Jackson lawyer Kevin Boyle also grilled Earley over his nondisclosure that he was working as a paid consultant in AEG Live’s defense when he submitted the study for publication in a medical journal.
He said the concert promoter did not try to influence his findings, which were published in March in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.
Jackson lawyers are hoping the controversy over Earley’s work for AEG Live will distract jurors from his conclusion that Michael Jackson was a drug addict with a “grave prognosis” that would have shortened his life had he not died of an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol on June 25, 2009.
Each dose of an anesthetic his doctor gave him to help him sleep was like playing “Russian roulette,” Earley said.
Murray told investigators he gave Jackson infusions of propofol for 60 nights to treat his insomnia as the entertainer prepared for his comeback concerts.
Lawyers for the concert promoter hired Earley in their effort to downplay damages the company might have to pay if found liable in the pop icon’s death. How much longer Jackson might have lived — and earned money touring — will be important if the jury decides AEG Live is liable for damages in Jackson’s death. Jackson lawyers contend he would have earned more than $1.5 billion touring the world over the next several years.
Katherine Jackson and her three grandchildren sued Michael Jackson’s last concert promoter, contending the company is liable in his death because it hired, retained or supervised the doctor convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
AEG Live lawyers contend it was Jackson, not the promoter, who chose and controlled Murray, and say AEG executives had no way of knowing about the dangerous treatments the doctor was giving Jackson in the privacy of his bedroom.
Earley: Jackson went ‘doctor shopping’
Despite writing a blog six weeks after Jackson’s death titled “Michael Jackson: Addiction in the Privileged,” Earley testified Tuesday that there “was insufficient evidence that he was addicted to propofol.”
“He was given propofol initially for appropriate medical procedures, but at some point, he began seeking out physicians who would administer propofol to him,” Earley testified.
The last two instances of “doctor shopping” for propofol were late March and April of 2009, when Jackson asked an anesthesiologist to go on tour with him and then asked a nurse to help him find an anesthesiologist, he said.
Earley said there was no evidence Jackson’s search for a doctor to give him propofol continued after AEG Live Co-CEO Paul Gongaware sent an e-mail to the singer’s assistant on May 6, 2009, telling him Murray had agreed to take the job as his personal physician for the “This Is It” tour. “Done at $150k a month,” Gongaware wrote.
“Sounds like he got it,” Earley testified.
The Jackson family’s lawyers contend that AEG Live executives ignored warning signs that Jackson’s health began deteriorating after Murray began attending to him on a daily basis. Show workers sent e-mails describing a paranoid and frail Jackson who couldn’t perform his standard dances or remember words to songs he had sung for decades.
A Harvard Medical School sleep expert, testifying in June for the Jacksons, concluded that the 60 nights of propofol infusions apparently robbed Jackson of rapid eye movement sleep, which is vital to keep the brain and body alive.
“The symptoms that Mr. Jackson was exhibiting were consistent with what someone might expect to see of someone suffering from total sleep deprivation over a chronic period,” Dr. Charles Czeisler testified.
Soon after AEG Live’s lawyers hired Earley as a consultant on propofol addiction in 2011, they agreed to fund his scientific research, which resulted in his paper titled “Addiction to Propofol: A Study of 22 Treatment Cases.” The American Society of Addiction Medicine published the study in March.
Earley insisted in his testimony that AEG Live’s funding did not influence the conclusions of his study or his testimony in the trial. But the Jackson lawyer hammered the doctor about the lack of disclosure to the scientific journal and his collaborator that he was being paid to be an expert witness in the trial.
He informed them that he was doing research for the company, but the trial aspect was “irrelevant,” Earley said.
“It’s irrelevant to health care professionals,” he said. “It wouldn’t affect their understanding of the paper.”