Michael Jackson’s drug use explored in trial
By Alan Duke
LOS ANGELES (CNN) — A nurse who administered propofol to Michael Jackson more than a dozen times said the pop star did not appear to be a drug-seeker.
David Fournier was called as a witness Thursday by AEG Live in an effort to convince jurors that Jackson was so deceptive and secretive about his drug use that its executives had no way of knowing his health was in danger as he prepared for his comeback concerts.
An economist hired by the concert promoter’s lawyers will testify Friday in an effort to downplay how much money Jackson might have earned had he not died at age 50 — an important issue if the jury decides AEG Live is liable in his death.
Michael Jackson’s mother and three children contend the company negligently hired, retained or supervised the doctor convicted of involuntary manslaughter in his death — which the coroner ruled was caused by an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol.
AEG Live argues that Jackson chose and controlled Dr. Conrad Murray, who told investigators he gave Jackson nightly infusions of propofol to treat his insomnia.
Fournier, a certified nurse anesthetist, testified about an incident on June 3, 2003 in which Jackson stopped breathing while under sedation for a procedure with Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein. After Jackson suffered a “somewhat bizarre reaction” during the sedation, Klein told Fournier it might be because the singer had an “opioid antagonist” implant. It was intended to help treat a dependence on Demerol, he said.
“You expect your clients and doctors be honest with you and I felt ambushed and was upset,” Fournier testified. The nurse said it made him angry at both Klein and Jackson.
AEG Live lawyers hope jurors see the incident as evidence that Jackson was dishonest about his drug use, which would support their contention that their executives had no way of knowing about the dangerous treatments he was getting from Murray.
Fournier also testified that Jackson failed to follow his instructions in two instances after being sedated for procedures. Jackson went to a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant for a bucket of chicken instead of going home and eating crackers, he testified. Another time he went to a rehearsal for a Grammy show performance and sprained his ankle, he said.
Every instance where Jackson was given propofol was medically justified, Fournier said. The 14 times he administered it between 2000 and 2003 involved plastic surgeries, dermatological procedures and oral surgeries, he said.
He first sedated Jackson in 1993 when he was being treated for serious scalp burns suffered while filming a Pepsi commercial several years earlier, he said.
Some of the 25 times he was hired to assist with Jackson’s procedures no drugs were given, he said. He would just hold his hand and assure him it would be all right.
Jackson never asked for specific drugs and never quarreled with him, he said. All of the doctors who treated him were respected physicians, he said.
Fournier’s friendly relationship with Jackson ended in November 2003 when he canceled a procedure because Jackson was “a little goofy, a little slow to respond.” Fournier said he refused to sedate Jackson because he suspected he was lying to him about his use of drugs.
“Despite 10 years of good quality care and taking good care of him for a long period of time, he never called me,” he said.
AEG Live’s lead lawyer has said he would call as witnesses “many, many, doctors” who have treated Jackson to make their case that he was a secretive drug addict.
The trial in a Los Angeles court concludes its 13th week Friday and is expected to last into September.
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