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11.01.11

Michael Jackson's Palace Culture

The last days of Dr. Conrad Murray’s trial in Michael Jackson’s death leave a portrait of the star’s culture of home schooling for the kids, a chef who stayed in the kitchen, an in-house doctor, and strict protocol.

If Michael Jackson had had a “hard” phone line, he might have been alive today—though might is the operative word.  But since the house on Carolwood was 16,000 square feet, it sort of makes sense that everyone communicated with each other by cell phone (sort of like losing somebody in a mall). 

As the Murray defense team prepares to rest their case (with a whimper instead of a bang)—unless of course Conrad Murray decides to testify tomorrow (stay tuned)—what has emerged very clearly are two things: We will never really know what happened the morning of Michael Jackson’s death, (certainly not from the limited amount of trial and witness testimony the Hon. Judge Michael Pastor allowed in this present trial); and a haunting portrait of what can only be called “Palace Culture”—the home schooling, the in-house private physician, the chef who stayed in the kitchen, a protected perimeter, curiously removed from the world, a security staff who resided in a shack with no bathroom facilities (and no telephones except their cells), where protocols were strictly observed and staff positions regulated in an old-fashioned manner with a curiously modern twist, the empty bottles of juice on Michael Jackson’s bedside table and a mysterious IV stand. Smoothies and propofol

The defense’s key expert witness, Dr. Paul White, blurted out in court Monday that Michael Jackson had his “own stash” of propofol, in addition to that which Murray had provided. A statement for which White was fined $1,000. (He’d been restricted by Pastor from telling the jury anything he’d learned from Conrad Murray, who may never be subject to cross-examination.) It's probably true, nonetheless.

Lead prosecutor David Walgren attempted to hammer White beyond repair, arrogantly, insistently, tearing into him, his reputation, his acumen, and his expertise. White sat there stoically, and who knows how it played. Especially when it was revealed in late-afternoon testimony (was the jury still listening?) that Walgren had tried to hire Paul White as the prosecution’s expert. He was their first choice. It’s all about winning. If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts? No, sorry, I got that wrong; if the facts don’t fit the theory, change the theory.

The defense’s key expert witness blurted out in court that Jackson had his ‘own stash’ of propofol.

Two experts. Two competing theories. If only I could keep track of what they were. 

The defense’s new theory: that MJ self-administered eight lorazepam tablets and a rapid fatal bolus dose of propofol while Conrad Murray was out of the room. 

The prosecution’s theory: that Conrad Murray administered a 25-mg dose of propofol followed by a drip (although there is no evidence of a drip) and left the room, and that after the cardiac arrest, Murray (supposedly) concealed the tubing for the fatal propofol drip in his pocket and removed it from the scene. One would like to point out that in all video surveillance photos at UCLA, Conrad Murray was dressed in a T-shirt and jeans. What pocket?  

But in a curious courtroom display, White, while on the witness stand where he had been all day, pulled a set of IV tubing out of his jacket pocket late Monday afternoon in a dramatic display intended to prove that the kind of tubing the prosecution was suggesting wouldn’t have worked. 

But this reporter couldn’t help but notice that the tubing fit perfectly into his jacket pocket, and like I said, it’s sometimes difficult to tell who’s working for whom.