The second half of the first day of Conrad Murray’s preliminary manslaughter hearing saw more witnesses for the prosecution come forward to accuse the doctor of negligence in the death of Michael Jackson.
Once the proceedings in downtown L.A. returned from lunch, Faheem Muhammad, a member of Jackson’s security staff told the court that when he arrived at the singer’s bedroom on June 25, 2009, he discovered a startling scene: The singer’s feet were protruding from under the bed covers and Jackson’s personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, (pictured right, from an earlier hearing) was kneeling beside the bed, perspiring. Worse, Jackson’s eyes and mouth were wide open. Muhammad had been summoned to Jackson’s rented Holmby Hills mansion by an SOS call shortly afternoon.
“It’s not looking good,” fellow security team member Alberto Alvarez told Muhammad, as Alvarez nervously paced the room. Both men soon heard even less encouraging words from Dr. Murray.
“He asked if anyone in the room knew CPR,” Muhammad told Deputy D.A. David Walgren during Day One of the evidentiary hearing that will decide whether Murray should stand trial for involuntary manslaughter.
Murray’s question provoked a mild gasp in Judge Michael Pastor’s packed courtroom during the hearing’s afternoon session. The cardiologist’s lawyer, Ed Chernoff, later attempted some damage control by getting Muhammad, a young man dressed completely in black, to admit there may have been extenuating circumstances behind Murray’s query.
“The way he asked it,” countered Muhammad, “made it seem like he didn’t know CPR.”
The security staffer was the concluding prosecution witness for Tuesday, a session cut short by the need for Pastor to attend to matters involving another trial. Jackson’s young personal assistant, Michael Amir Williams, had preceded Muhammad.
Both Muhammad and Williams threw some light on the hours immediately following Jackson’s drug overdose death: the frantic calls between Dr. Murray and staffers (made before Murray or anyone else got around to calling 911), the gathering paparazzi and the doomed efforts of paramedics to revive Jackson after they were finally phoned.
The two witnesses provided little in the way of proving, as the D.A. hopes to, that Murray was criminally negligent in prescribing medications to Jackson, especially his use of the anesthetic Propofol to cure Jackson’s chronic insomnia. One vignette witnessed by both Williams and Muhammad came at UCLA Medical Center, where, about half an hour after Jackson had been declared dead, Dr. Murray announced he was hungry and wanted to get something to eat. After that, the singer’s two staffers recalled, Murray vanished for several days.
The hearing, which will probably last between one and two weeks, began in a somewhat circus-like atmosphere. Jackson fans and conspiracy theorists began arriving around dawn, lining the court’s Temple Street wall with autographed banners pledging their love for the King of Pop. A few hinted at the dark powers some saw behind his death. “The Illuminati Killed Michael Jackson,” began a scroll on one red placard. “The Mafia Helped. L.A. Judges Keep Taking Bribes Under the Table . . .” Near the front entrance a jovial man wearing a white doctor’s coat and gold necklace stood next to a sandwich board hawking his book, Getting Over Going Under: 5 Things You Must Know Before Anesthesia. (“Includes Michael Jackson Chapter”) Author Dr. Barry Friedberg was unwavering in his belief of his fellow physician’s guilt.
“There’s no question [Jackson] died under Murray’s care,” Friedberg said.
Inside the court, about 70 Jackson fans, some dressed as the singer, others wearing red-sequined armbands with the word “Justice” on them, filled the hallway outside Department 107. Only a fraction were allowed inside the courtroom, where they competed with a small army of reporters for seats.
They, like Dr. Murray, the attorneys and the media, will be back tomorrow.