Michael Jackson’s doctor Conrad Murray said on Tuesday that he had decided not to testify in his own defence, at the climax of his manslaughter trial over the star’s 2009 death.
“My decision is that I will not testify in this matter,” he told judge Michael Pastor during a break in the trial at Los Angeles Superior Court, which is due to finish within days.
Most observers have assumed that Murray, whose account of Jackson’s death was given in a two-hour interview with police, would not testify as it could only harm his case.
That point of view was bolstered on Monday when prosecutor David Walgren staged a forensic cross-examination picking apart the testimony of the defence’s star witness, Dr Paul White, which he could repeat on Murray in the dock.
But others argued that given how many holes prosecutors have picked in his defence case, the doctor — who has sat in grim silence for the last five weeks — could decide to appeal directly to the jury.
The TMZ celebrity news website had reported that Murray’s defence lawyers, Ed Chernoff and Michael Flanagan, were split over whether he should take the stand.
Chernoff, who has battled to defend his client against a powerful prosecution case, believed Murray should not stand, while his assistant counsel Flanagan thought the doctor should, the website said.
Murray, asked by judge Pastor whether he had made his decision “freely and voluntarily,” replied simply: “Yes.”
‘Need more time’
Murray had surprised observers at the end of Monday’s hearings, saying he had not yet decided whether to testify. “I will still need more time. I have not made my decision. It depends on the progress of the trial,” he said.
Judge Michael Pastor told Murray last week that the final decision over whether to testify is his.
“You have an absolute individual constitutional right to testify … if you want to testify you will testify even if somebody did counsel you not to,” he said last Wednesday.
Murray’s decision was announced shortly after the defence’s star witness Dr White stood down after being hammered by prosecutor Walgren for a second day, after his grilling on Monday.
The defence was expected to formally rest its case shortly after the announcement.
On Monday, White conceded that Murray should have called 911 more quickly when he found the star not breathing and conceded that he would have done things differently.
“I would have done things differently in terms of calling for help and calling 911,” White said on Monday.
Murray faces up to four years in jail if convicted of Jackson’s death from “acute propofol intoxication” in Los Angeles where the singer was rehearsing for a series of planned comeback shows.
The prosecution claims that Murray, who was being paid $150 000 a month, killed Jackson by administering a deadly cocktail of drugs to help him sleep and then abandoning him at the crucial moment.
The defence has sought to present Jackson as a desperate drug addict who would have ended up killing himself with an accidental overdose with or without Murray’s help. — AFP