By Thomas Watkins
ABOVE PHOTO: Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s doctor, second right, looks on as his attorney Ed Chernoff, right, and legal team stand during Murray’s arraignment at the Los Angeles Superior Court on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the singer’s death in Los Angeles on Monday, Feb. 8, 2010.
(AP Photo/Mark Boster, Pool)
LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson’s doctor halted CPR on the dying pop star and delayed calling paramedics so he could collect drug vials at the scene, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press that shed new light on the singer’s chaotic final moments.
The explosive allegation that Dr. Conrad Murray may have tried to hide evidence is likely to be a focus as prosecutors move ahead with their involuntary manslaughter case against him.
The account was given to investigators by Alberto Alvarez, Jackson’s logistics director, who was summoned to the stricken star’s side as he was dying on June 25. His statement and those from two other Jackson employees also obtained by the AP paint a grisly scene in Jackson’s bedroom.
Alvarez told investigators that he rushed to Jackson’s room and saw the star lying in his bed, an IV attached to his leg. Jackson’s mouth was agape, eyes open and there was no sign of life. Murray worked frantically, at one point performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while Alvarez took over CPR.
Two of the star’s children, Prince and Paris, came in the room and cried as they saw Murray trying to save their father. A nanny was called to usher them away and they were taken to wait outside in a vehicle.
The documents also detail an odd encounter with Murray after Jackson was declared dead at a nearby hospital. Murray insisted he needed to return to the mansion to get cream that Jackson had “so the world wouldn’t find out about it,” according to the statements, which provide no elaboration.
Murray’s lawyer, Ed Chernoff, rejected the notion his client tried to hide drugs. He also noted Alvarez was interviewed twice by police and gave different accounts of what happened in Jackson’s bedroom. During the first interview, Alvarez made no mention of being told to tidy away medicine vials.
“He didn’t say any of those things, then two months later, all of a sudden, the doc is throwing bottles into the bag,” Chernoff said. “Alvarez’s statement is inconsistent with his previous statement. We will deal with that at trial.”
Alvarez and the others who gave the statements, Jackson’s personal assistant Michael Amir Williams and driver/bodyguard Faheem Muhammad, could be key witnesses should Murray go to trial. Except for the brief appearances by the nanny and the children, Alvarez and Muhammad were the only others in the room with Murray as he tried to save Jackson before paramedics arrived.
A call to Alvarez’s attorney was not immediately returned.
Jackson, 50, hired Murray to be his personal physician as he prepared for a series of comeback performances in London. He was participating in strenuous rehearsals and Murray would routinely meet him at the star’s home in the evening for treatments.
The Los Angeles coroner ruled Jackson’s death a homicide caused by an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol and two other sedatives given to get the chronic insomniac to sleep. Propofol, a milky white liquid, is supposed to be administered only by anesthesia professionals in medical settings. Patients require constant monitoring because the drug depresses breathing and heart rate while lowering blood pressure, a potentially deadly combination.
Murray, 57, a cardiologist licensed in Nevada, California and Texas, has acknowledged briefly leaving Jackson’s bedside the day he died but maintained from the outset that nothing he gave the singer should have killed him. It wasn’t illegal for him to administer propofol, though whether he followed proper procedures while Jackson was under the influence is a key part of the case.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office has asked a court to suspend Murray’s license pending the outcome of criminal proceedings against him.
Alvarez, Muhammad and Williams are all represented by attorney Carl Douglas and gave their statements separately on Aug. 31 at the lawyer’s Beverly Hills office. None of the three has spoken publicly about the events of June 25.
Alvarez told police he arrived at Jackson’s home around 10:20 AM He was awaiting instructions for the day in a security trailer outside Jackson’s rented mansion when, at 12:17 PM, his phone rang. It was Williams.
Williams told Alvarez that Murray had just called to say Jackson was in trouble. Alvarez rushed into the mansion and up the stairs to Jackson’s room, where he saw Murray standing at the pop star’s bedside, performing CPR with one hand, according to the statements.
Alvarez asked the doctor what had happened.
“He had a reaction, he had a bad reaction,” Murray replied, according to Alvarez’s statement.
Murray then grabbed a few vials with rubber tops and told Alvarez to put them in a bag, Alvarez told investigators. Alvarez picked up a plastic bag from the floor and Murray put the bottles inside, then Murray told Alvarez to put that plastic bag inside a brown canvas bag, according to the account.
Alvarez said Murray then told him to remove an IV bag from a stand and put it in a blue canvas bag. He did, and noticed the bag had a connector with a milky white substance in it. Alvarez didn’t say what happened to the bags, nor did he identify what was in the vials.
Two days after Jackson’s death, under several hours of questioning by police, Murray eventually directed them to a closet in Jackson’s bedroom. In it, they found propofol and other sedatives in a bag.
On the day Jackson died, Murray waited until the bags were filled before telling Alvarez to call 911, according to Alvarez’s statement.
“I need an ambulance as soon as possible,” Alvarez told a dispatcher. “We have a gentleman here that needs help and he’s not breathing.”
The dispatcher told Alvarez to put Jackson on the floor.
At that moment, Muhammad rushed into the room and began helping with chest compressions while Murray attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Murray told the men it was his first time performing CPR, Alvarez said, though Chernoff said Murray had administered CPR many times before.
Murray then placed a dark brown machine with wires onto Jackson’s fingers, Alvarez said. Police later said they found a pulse oximeter at Jackson’s home, a medical device that shows heart rate and the amount of oxygen in the blood.
By 12:27 PM, paramedics arrived at the house. According to their report, Jackson was not breathing and had no pulse at 12:29 PM. However, Murray stated he could feel a weak pulse in Jackson’s upper thigh area, Alvarez and Muhammad said.
According to the paramedic report, emergency responders tried two rounds of resuscitation attempts and were ready to discontinue treatment, but Murray said he would take responsibility and insisted resuscitation be continued in the ambulance.
At 1:07 PM, the singer was taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where doctors attempted a range of resuscitation techniques. Jackson was pronounced dead at 2:26 PM.
At the hospital, after the death had been called, Williams said he saw Murray crying.
Murray asked Williams if he or someone else could take him back to the mansion so he could pick up the cream, according to Williams’ statement.
Williams said he didn’t think it was a good idea for Murray to return to the house. He spoke to Muhammad and they agreed they wouldn’t take Murray back. They concocted a story that police had taken all the keys to the vehicles as part of the investigation.
Murray said he would take a cab, and Williams said he saw him leave the hospital through a side door.