|Trial May Experience Delay|
(15-10-2011) The trial of Dr. Conrad Murray may experience a short delay due to a death in the family of the prosecution's expert witness.
Anesthesiology expert Dr. Steven Shafer was supposed to resume testimony after returning from a medical conference. However, Shafer never made it to the conference because his father passed away.
The trial may not resume until Tuesday, it was revealed at a technical hearing called on Friday in the absence of the jury to discuss the upcoming list of defence witnesses.
Testimony was recessed Thursday afternoon so Shafer could attend a medical conference in Chicago, but Deputy District Attorney David Walgren said Friday that Shafer never made it there because of the death in his family.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor, who is known for keeping strict control over his courtroom, scolded and fined prosecutors Walgren and Deputy District Attorney Deborah Brazil for being a few minutes late to the hearing on Friday morning.
"Well, this has happened before," Pastor said, before ordering Walgren and Brazil to pay a $60 fine - $10 for each minute they were late to court.
Shafer, who is expected to give a detailed scientific explanation of how the surgical anesthetic propofol is metabolized in the human body, will be on the witness stand for at least one day when he returns from his father's funeral, according to Walgren.
The defense will then present its case, which will probably last until next Friday or the following Monday, according to defense lawyer Nareg Gourjian.
In other happenings at Friday's hearing, the defense disclosed that they knew months before trial that the theory of Michael Jackson drinking the fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol would have to be abandoned.
The idea that Jackson may have drank the fatal dose was long touted by defense attorneys as a centerpiece of their case. Documents were filed and arguments heard about studies on the issue. The attorneys have even referred to a bottle of fruit juice found on Jackson's bedside table, suggesting he had taken the drug with juice.
Flanagan first dropped the bombshell that the defense was abandoning the strategy during court on Wednesday.
"We are not going to assert at any point in this trial that Michael Jackson at any time orally ingested propofol," said Flanagan, who mentioned he had commissioned a study that concluded propofol would not be absorbed into the body when ingested.
But he did not say when the study had been done and prosecutors and Judge Pastor appeared stunned at the announcement.
At Friday's hearing, on a day when testimony was not heard, Deputy District Attorney David Walgren told the judge, "We are dealing with an ever-changing defense. It was just a couple of days ago they abandoned oral propofol."
"Oh, your honor, that is not correct," Flanagan said.
"No?' Walgren asked incredulously.
"We abandoned oral propofol months ago," said Flanagan, saying they were swayed by a report from the prosecutions expert, Dr. Steven Shafer.
Flanagan said Shafer had questioned "the bioavailability of oral propofol," meaning whether it would be absorbed into the body if swallowed. So the defense decided to have its own study conducted and, "We determined back in May that bioavailability of oral propofol was not feasible."
Judge Pastor said he had not been advised in advance that the theory would be dropped. However, he said he would not be dealing with Walgren's claims of an ever-changing defense.
"I don't have to go there," he said. "It is what it is right now."
The drama at the hearing offered a backstage look at possible defense gamesmanship in leading prosecutors to prepare for a defense theory that would never be presented.
Famed defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr., who successfully defended Michael Jackson in 2005 on child molestation charges, suggested the defense was not playing honorably, although they have no ethical or legal obligation to keep the prosecution posted on its strategies.
"I don't personally see a violation," Mesereau said. "You're supposed to operate in good faith but, you don't have to tell them every little strategy you intend to employ. Maybe this defense team was debating whether to use the issue up to the end."
Source: MJFC / CNN.com / goerie.com / straitstimes.com
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