Conrad Murray Trial

10.11.11

Was Michael Jackson Legally Blind?

Testimony in the Jackson manslaughter trial will reveal the star was prescribed eye drops used to treat glaucoma, and that Conrad Murray thought he might have been legally blind, Amy Ephron reports.

There have been quite a few wildly dramatic audio/visual presentations in the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, not the least of which came during the prosecution’s opening statement: a screening of a small portion of two songs from This Is It on a split screen juxtaposed against a fixed photo of a dead Michael Jackson in a hospital bed at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center.  

But the most startling tidbit will be revealed tomorrow (according to Murray’s first taped interview with the LAPD)—that Jackson may have been “legally blind.”

There have been three audio recordings played for the jury that were striking for their tone, their setting, and their information that were both elucidating and confusing, if those two things aren’t a contradiction in terms:

• An audio of Jackson recorded surreptitiously by Murray on his iPhone on May 10, 2009 (in what appears to be the wee hours of the morning), a portion of which was played by lead prosecutor David Walgren in his opening statement. In it Jackson’s speech is impaired, slurred, as if he’s under the influence of something, and simultaneously oddly manic as he talks about how “When people leave my show I want them to say they’ve never seen anything like this in my life ... He’s the greatest entertainer in the world.” The recording ends with him stating, “My performances will be up there helping my children and always be my dream. I love them. I love them because I didn’t have a childhood. I had no childhood. I feel their pain. I feel their hurt. I can deal with it. ‘Heal the World,’ ‘We Are the World,' 'Will You Be There,’ ‘The Lost Children.’ These are the songs I’ve written because I hurt, you know, I hurt.”  That was followed by 13 seconds of silence and Murray asking, “You OK?,” followed by eight seconds of silence. And Jackson saying in a voice even more slurred than the Sunset Blvd.-like voice in the earlier part of the tape, “I’m asleep.”

• A voicemail that Frank DiLeo left for Murray on June 20, 2009, five days before Jackson’s death. The message was short and to the point: “Dr. Murray, it’s Frank DiLeo. I’m Michael’s manager. I’m the short guy with no hair. He had an episode last night. He’s sick. I think you need to get a blood test on him. You’ve got to see what he’s doing."

• The jury is presently hearing an audio recording of Murray’s first interview with LAPD Detectives Scott Smith and Orlando Martinez at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Marina del Rey on June 27, 2009, two days after Jackson’s death, with two of Murray’s attorneys, Ed Chernoff and Michael Pena (who flew in on a dime from Houston), also in attendance. (A copy of the transcript of that recording has been obtained by this reporter.) 

The jury members have been instructed by presiding Judge Michael Pastor to rely on their own impressions of the audio rather than the transcribed version—if they think they hear anything different from what is on the page, they are to rely on their own perception. It is unclear whether the jury will be able to get past the glaring fact that in this interview, Murray told detectives he had left MJ’s bedroom for only two minutes, and it has now been revealed, from his cellphone records and emails presented into evidence, that he was gone for more than 30 minutes. He did forthrightly reveal, however, that he’d administered propofol, and directed authorities to the location of the luggage bags where he had stashed the propofol bottles and saline bag (in a closet off MJ’s private bedroom). 

But there are no stage directions on a written transcript, no inflections—an occasional dash to indicate a pause, but other than that, just the cold, hard words on the page. If you were to read the transcript, without the benefit of the audio, it would seem oddly more combative than it was. The tone throughout was measured, soft; Murray at times seeming genuinely perplexed at the cause of his star client’s death, Murray himself asking for an autopsy to be performed, and Murray patiently answering the questions he was asked and informing the detectives of some of the science of the drugs they were asking about. 

There were, however, some distinct “changes” in the course of his first interview—most notably when he was first asked, on page 8, by Martinez if he was aware of MJ being under the care of any other doctors. Murray replies, “He never disclosed that to me, but because he moved around so much, I would assume that he was.” 

Yet on page 48 he discloses knowledge of a Dr. David Adams, who is an anesthesiologist in Las Vegas who once used Murray’s clinic to administer “milk” (MJ’s pet name for propofol) to Jackson. When asked an hour or more into the interview about a steroid cream that had been prescribed to MJ (more about this later), Murray seems to suddenly know all about another doctor Jackson had been seeing, a Dr. Klein. (Jackson’s longtime dermatologist was Dr. Arnold Klein.)

The information Murray gives at first is halting. “Well, I am told that Dr. Klein is a—is maybe a dermatologist. I don’t know. But his [MJ’s] production team had—had said to me recently that his worst days on the set is when he had gone to Dr. Klein’s office, which is about three times a week; and when he came back, he was basically wasted and required at least 24 hours for recovery.”

But the most stunning revelation to me was the eye drops, three different vials, in a prescription bottle that has had its label removed so that the prescribing doctor is as much a mystery as the drops themselves, although the drug is used to treat glaucoma.

Murray reveals he’d been worried about Jackson’s eyes and had scheduled an appointment for him with an eye doctor at UCLA.

When Murray is first asked about it, his response is, “Surprise. Surprise.” And yet he goes on to reveal that he’d been worried about Jackson’s eyes, had scheduled an appointment for Michael with an eye doctor at UCLA that MJ had missed the week before, and, in Murray’s own words, “His eyesight was very, very bad. So I did figure out he could be legally blind ...” 

Michael Jackson was legally blind? Really? Hadn’t Murray just told the insurance company that Jackson was in perfect health? And maybe this would have been a relevant fact if your star patient was about to do a number of performances at the O2 Stadium in front of blinding lights and dazzling special effects in an arena full of up to 20,000 fans. In fact, Murray then goes on to tell detectives that “I was worried when he was in England, if you’re not seeing on the stage and all the bright lights, maybe you can fall and hurt yourself.”

If only that had been the case …