Defense Attorney J. Michael Flanagan, left, and Dr. Conrad Murray listen during cross-examination of Dr. Paul White (not pictured) in the final stage of Murray’s defense during his involuntary manslaughter trial in the death of singer Michael Jackson at the Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, Oct. 31, 2011 in Los Angeles. Murray has pleaded not guilty and faces four years in prison and the loss of his medical licenses if convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, pool)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Jackson’s doctor finally made a decision he had long delayed, telling a judge Tuesday he would not testify in his involuntary manslaughter trial.
Minutes later, the defense rested its case and the prosecution, after presenting brief rebuttal testimony, closed its presentation of evidence in the six-week trial. That set the stage for closing arguments to begin Thursday.
Dr. Conrad Murray’s announcement came while jurors were out of the room and he was not asked to repeat it for them.
Spectators, including Jackson’s mother, father, brother Randy and sister LaToya, seemed to hold their breath before Murray answered one of the biggest remaining questions of his trial, saying he would stay away from the witness stand.
The doctor held his hands together over his mouth in a prayerful pose before Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor asked the cardiologist whether he intended to take the stand.
The judge lectured Murray as he had before on how the decision to testify was his alone and that he also had the right to remain silent.
“Have you made up your mind?” Pastor asked.
Murray paused, looked at all his lawyers, seemed to sigh and said, “My decision is I will not testify in this matter.”
The judge asked lead attorney Ed Chernoff if he had conferred with Murray about his rights and Chernoff said yes.
“The court finds the defendant has knowingly, freely and explicitly waived his right to testify,” the judge said. “I certainly will respect that decision.”
Murray had left open the possibility of testifying on Monday, when he told the judge that he had not made a final decision.
The judge had warned him that testifying brought with it the prospect of tough cross-examination by the prosecution. That may have swayed him along with the fact that the jury already had a chance to hear him tell his story on a recording of a police interview.
When jurors returned to the courtroom, Chernoff announced that the defense had no further witnesses after calling 16 people to testify. A total of 49 witnesses testified for both sides over 22 days of trial.
Prosecutors contend Murray gave Jackson a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol in the bedroom of the singer’s mansion. Defense attorneys claim Jackson self-administered the dose when Murray left the room.
The last witness was propofol expert Dr. Steven Shafer, who was re-called by prosecutors as a rebuttal witness to address a few points raised by his former colleague Dr. Paul White.
In the final moments of testimony by White, he was asked by defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan to differentiate between the “standard of care” and the “standard of practice” by physicians. Prosecution expert witnesses have said Murray’s treatment of Jackson was an extreme deviation from the accepted standard of care.
“The standard of care is the ideal,” White said. “It is what we would look for for every patient.”
But he suggested there are unique situations in which the standard must be adjusted to circumstances and may not reach the highest level.
White has testified for the defense that Jackson caused his own death. But White also said he would not have followed the same procedures that Murray did.
Addressing the standard of care issue, Shafer said that in special cases such as that of Jackson, where a patient is treated in a remote location, the precautions should be above the standard of care, not below.
Noting that Jackson was given the drug propofol in his bedroom, he said, “If there was such a thing as bedroom-based anesthesia, the standard guidelines would be a minimum. There’s no tolerance for error because you have no backup.”
Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009. He could face up to four years behind bars and the loss of his medical license if convicted.
AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.