One of the most shocking revelations to emerge from the first day of testimony in the pretrial hearing of former Michael Jackson doctor Conrad Murray is that as the pop icon lay dying in his rented Los Angeles mansion, cardiologist Murray asked in a panic, “Does anyone know CPR?”
According to CNN, that’s what bodyguard Faheem Muhammed said on the stand. Tuesday was the first day of testimony in hearings aimed at determining whether there is enough evidence to try Murray on a felony count of involuntary manslaughter in the June 2009 death of the King of Pop.
The hearing is slated to last around two weeks and feature 20 to 30 witnesses, most of whom will be medical professionals. But it was the shocking testimony of Muhammed on Tuesday that grabbed headlines. He said that he and fellow guard Alberto Alvarez walked in on a scene in which Murray was crouched next to the motionless body of Jackson and it appeared that the heart surgeon did not know how to give CPR.
As they waited for paramedics to arrive, Muhammed said Murray stood next to Jackson’s bed and asked in a panicked voice if anyone else in the room knew how to administer the life-saving technique.
“I looked at Alberto because we knew Dr. Murray was a heart surgeon, so we were shocked,” Muhammed said. When defense attorney Ed Chernoff asked whether Murray was asking for help because he was exhausted after staying up all night administering sleep aids to the chronically insomniac Jackson, Muhammed replied, “The way that he asked it is as if he didn’t know CPR.” He also said that he never witnessed Murray performing CPR on Jackson before paramedics arrived and that the singer’s two oldest children, Prince Michael and Paris, were in their father’s bedroom as the drama was unfolding. Among the Jackson family members in court on Tuesday to watch the proceedings were family matriarch Katherine, sister LaToya and brothers Randy and Jackie.
Prosecutor David Walgren referred to Murray’s use of “ineffectual” CPR, which included using one hand while Jackson was on a soft bed, which is counter to recommended techniques. Walgren also told the judge in the case that medical experts would testify that Murray took “a number of actions” that “showed an extreme deviation from the standard of care,” after being hired to serve as Jackson’s personal physician in the lead-up to a series of comeback shows in England.
The prosecutor also claimed that Murray waited at least 21 minutes to call an ambulance after he found Jackson unresponsive. “By all accounts, Michael Jackson was dead in the bedroom at 100 North Carolwood prior to the paramedics’ arrival,” Walgren said. The Los Angeles County coroner later determined that the singer died of “acute propofol intoxication,” saying the overdose of the surgical anesthetic and the combined effects of other sedatives caused his death.
Chernoff has said that Murray administered propofol and other sedatives to Jackson in the hours before the pop star’s death, but not in quantities that “should have” caused his death. CNN reported that Murray’s defense team hinted that it would argue that Jackson was facing intense pressure over his upcoming 50-date This Is It comeback series of shows at London’s O2 Arena and that led to his demands for treatment to help his chronic insomnia.
Also testifying on Tuesday was the director of the shows, Kenny Ortega, who described Jackson as “involved, active, participating” at his final rehearsal, which ended 12 hours before his death. That was very different from the out-of-it singer who could barely make it through rehearsals on June 19, six nights before his death. At a meeting called after Ortega sent Jackson home that night for some rest, the director described a scene in which Murray scolded him for cutting the rehearsal short.
“Dr. Murray told me that this was not my responsibility, and he asked me not to act like a doctor or psychologist,” Ortega said. Murray has pleaded not guilty in the case, and according to a recent report, Walgren believes that the doctor’s lawyers may claim that Jackson self-administered the final, fatal dose of propofol and essentially killed himself after waking up in a panic from a fitful night of sleep.
Testimony in the case will continue on Wednesday (January 5).