LOS ANGELES (AP) - A defense lawyer for Michael Jackson's doctor
said Wednesday the singer was so anguished about his deteriorating
finances in his final days that he took desperate actions that
caused his own death.
The statements by attorney Edward Chernoff came during a
pretrial hearing in the case of Dr. Conrad Murray, who has pleaded
not guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's death.
Chernoff was asking to see Jackson's financial records to prove
a key defense theory.
"The crux of the defense is going to be that Michael Jackson
engaged in a desperate act and took desperate measures that caused his death," Chernoff told Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor.
"We believe at the time Michael Jackson died he was a desperate man in relation to his financial affairs."
Deputy District Attorney David Walgren accused the defense of trying to distract from the main issue of the trial - whether Murray acted with gross negligence when he gave Jackson the anesthetic propofol and other sedatives on the day he died..
"This is an irrelevant sideshow designed to take issues away from the jury and smear Michael Jackson," Walgren said. "It has nothing to do with the case on which Dr. Murray is being prosecuted. "
Attorney Howard Weitzman, representing the late singer's estate, also opposed the request for financial records.
"Is the theory that Michael Jackson committed suicide, took his own life?" he said incredulously. "I don't think that's a salable theory.
The judge refused to grant the request.
"I'm not going to turn an involuntary manslaughter trial into some kind of an escapade in analysis of the finances in Michael Jackson's entire life," Pastor said. "Right now this is major deep sea fishing."
However, Pastor did order Weitzman to confer with defense counsel on financial records that are already available in the public record.
The reference to Jackson's finances added a new twist to the defense case.
During an earlier preliminary hearing, Murray's lawyers
suggested that Jackson, who was desperate for sleep, gave himself
an additional dose of propofol while Murray was in a restroom. A
coroner's report showed the singer died of an overdose of propofol
and an assortment of other sedatives.
Defense lawyers never used the word suicide and implied his
death was accidental but self-inflicted. They seemed poised to
argue that Jackson was about to embark on an extremely strenuous
concert tour because it was the only way to save himself
They are likely to suggest that was why Jackson was so desperate
for sleep as he was preparing for the tour. At a preliminary
hearing for Murray. Jackson was quoted by a witness as saying if he
didn't sleep he would have to cancel the tour.
Lawyers were ordered to return Thursday to continue screening
prospective jurors through written questionnaires. Jury selection
is scheduled to move into open court on May 4 and opening
statements are expected on May 9.