LOS ANGELES — Prosecutors are calling a key witness Thursday in an attempt to show jurors that Michael Jackson’s doctor delayed calling authorities on the day the King of Pop was found lifeless and was intent on concealing indications that he had been giving the singer doses of a surgical anesthetic.
As the involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray enters its third day, testimony will keep jurors focused on events in Jackson’s bedroom during the frantic moments when efforts were made to revive the unresponsive pop superstar.
The panel has already gotten a glimpse into the entertainer’s inner sanctum through photos and testimony, but on Thursday will hear from the first bodyguard to reach the room after Murray summoned for help.
In testimony during a preliminary hearing earlier this year, Alberto Alvarez said Murray ordered him to stash away vials of medicine and an IV bag before calling 911. Jackson, his eyes open and mouth open, appeared to be dead, he said.
The bodyguard’s testimony is crucial to prosecutors’ contentions that Murray delayed calling 911 and was intent on covering up evidence that he had given Jackson propofol in his bedroom, a far cozier environment than the surgical settings where it is normally administered.
Alvarez’s testimony will likely be challenged by Murray’s defense attorneys, who on Wednesday questioned Jackson’s head of security and the singer’s personal assistant about why they didn’t reveal certain details about the day Jackson died to police for at least two months. Defense lawyer Ed Chernoff asked Faheem Muhammad and Michael Amir Williams about whether they conferred with Alvarez before their interviews with detectives.
Williams, who was Jackson’s personal assistant, said his interview with detectives had been delayed. He testified Wednesday that he received an urgent phone call from Murray on the day of Jackson’s death but wasn’t told to call 911. He called Muhammad, who then dispatched Alvarez to Jackson’s bedroom on the second floor of the singer’s rented mansion in the ritzy Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles.
The room was off-limits to Jackson’s staff, and Muhammad paused before racing up the stairs after reaching the mansion just before paramedics arrived.
He described a heart-wrenching scene. By then, he said, Jackson had been removed from his bed and was on the floor, where Murray, sweaty and frantic, was performing CPR.
Alvarez was pacing nervously, Muhammad told the jury. When he saw Jackson up close, he understood why.
“What did you observe about his face,” prosecutor David Walgren asked
“That his eyes were open,” Muhammad said. “That his mouth was slightly open.”
“Did he appear to be dead,” Walgren asked.
The bodyguard soon noticed that Jackson’s children, Prince and Paris, had gathered by the doorway.
“Paris was on the ground, balled up crying,” Muhammad said. He ushered the children out of the room, and then into a sport utility vehicle so they could follow the ambulance to the hospital.
Paparazzi were already swarming the perimeter of the mansion and were waiting at the hospital, Muhammad recalled.
Some of the scenes recounted by Muhammad will likely be repeated Thursday as prosecutors work to fill in other details about Murray’s behavior after finding Jackson unconscious. Also expected to testify on Thursday are Kai Chase, a chef who spoke to Murray briefly on the morning of Jackson’s death, and paramedics who also tried to revive the singer. The medics believed Jackson was already dead by the time they arrived, but Murray insisted the performer be taken to a hospital for additional resuscitation efforts.
Prosecutors contend Murray did not tell any of the bodyguards or emergency personnel that he had been giving Jackson propofol and other sedatives to help him sleep.
Chernoff claimed in opening statements that Jackson gave himself the lethal dose.
Much of the trial in later sessions will focus on the science of what killed Jackson, and dueling theories of Murray’s role.
For at least another day, jurors will hear from witnesses who knew him when he was alive.