In a hint of the strategy he's prepping for the upcoming trial of Dr. Conrad Murray in the death of [artist id="1102"]Michael Jackson[/artist], the lawyer for the late pop icon's personal physician said his client did not deliver a fatal dose of the surgical anesthetic propofol to the singer.
As fans gather around the world to pay tribute on the one-year anniversary of Jackson's death, attorney Ed Chernoff told CNN that his client, who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the case, said it's possible that someone else administered the propofol or that Jackson did it himself.
"There is no way that Dr. Murray pumped Michael Jackson full of propofol sufficient for major surgery," Chernoff said, reacting to an autopsy report that said the level of the powerful anesthetic found in Jackson was equal to what would be used to sedate a patient for major surgery. "No way. I would stake anything that I own on this fact."
The Los Angeles County coroner ruled that Jackson's death on June 25, 2009, was a result of an overdose of propofol, a drug the singer reportedly used in combination with other sedatives in order to combat chronic insomnia. Murray was hired to be Jackson's personal physician, at a rate of $150,000 a month, during the rehearsals for the singer's 50-date This Is It series of comeback shows at London's O2 arena. The cardiologist has admitted to administering propofol to Jackson as a sleep aid, but Chernoff said it was in much smaller doses than what was found in Jackson's body during the autopsy.
If Murray did not administer the fatal dose, other theories include that another unidentified person who entered the singer's room while Murray was not present gave Jackson a larger dose, or that Jackson woke from fitful sleep and gave it to himself.
But an anesthesia expert hired by the coroner appeared to dismiss the notion that Jackson may have accidentally killed himself with propofol. "It would have been difficult for the patient to administer the drugs to himself, given the configuration of the IV setup," the expert wrote in the autopsy report. Chernoff, who must only convince a jury that there is reasonable doubt that his client contributed to Jackson's death, seized on those possibilities in the CNN interview.
"The coroner's report deemed it to be unlikely, because it would be difficult, so I'm assuming they've addressed that situation and that's what they believe, but is it possible?" he asked. "Absolutely, it's possible."
Chernoff said Murray left behind two successful medical practices in Houston and Las Vegas to work for Jackson and that the doctor had no idea what he was signing up for when he agreed to the gig.
"Did Dr. Murray know that 'when I get onboard treating Michael Jackson, that I'm going to have to deal with this drug propofol'? No," Chernoff said, noting that Murray knew Jackson suffered from insomnia but not that he used propofol as a sleep aid. He claimed that Murray attempted to wean Jackson off the anesthetic, alarmed that the singer was using such a powerful surgical drug for that purpose.
It's unclear where Murray was in the 90 minutes before Jackson was found unresponsive, with phone records showing he made three calls totaling around 47 minutes during that time and the doctor telling investigators that he only left Jackson's side for "two minutes maximum" to use the restroom during that time. That period is the only time when someone else, or Jackson, could have given the fatal propofol dose. Prosecutors believe the evidence shows that Murray is the only person who could be responsible for Jackson's death, but Chernoff believes a jury will see things differently.
"We get a fair jury and we are able to afford just some of the necessary experts and investigators then, yes, the doctor is going to win," he predicted. "Whatever the doctor did for Michael Jackson, whatever he did, was to help, and he took the necessary precautions and then something happened that is unexplainable."
Murray has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charges, and a preliminary hearing in the case is slated for late August.
MTV will be remembering the life and music of Michael Jackson all weekend. Don't miss the one-hour special "Michael Jackson's Influence on Music," airing Friday at 6:30 p.m. on MTV.