Jackson death investigator grilled by defense

October 6, 2011 - 1:50 PM
Michael Jackson Doctor

Drugs found in the home of pop star Michael Jackson by Los Angeles County coroner investigator Elissa Fleak sit on the prosecution's table after being introduced as evidence during Dr. Conrad Murray's trial in the death of Jackson in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Mario Anzuoni, Pool)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A defense attorney on Thursday attacked the notes and recollections of a coroner's investigator who collected medication and other items from the bedroom of Michael Jackson after he died.

Ed Chernoff, lead attorney for defendant Dr. Conrad Murray, questioned whether a "substantial number of mistakes" had been made during the coroner's inquiry into Jackson's death in June 2009.

Chernoff said during cross-examination that investigator Elissa Fleak didn't note that she had found a bottle of propofol inside an IV bag until March 2011, nearly two years after the singer's death.

Fleak denied doing anything wrong but acknowledged she updated her notes with the key detail just a few months ago and destroyed her original notes from the crime scene.

The lawyer questioned whether she heard the detail in testimony by bodyguard Alberto Alvarez, who testified during a preliminary hearing in January that he saw the bottle inside the IV bag. He repeated the detail for jurors last week and said Murray told him to put the IV bag into another bag before calling 911.

The bag filled with propofol, sedatives and other medication was found during a search of Jackson's closet four days after his death. The search was prompted by Murray's interview with police on June 27, 2009.

Authorities say Jackson died of acute propofol intoxication combined with other sedatives administered by Murray. Defense attorneys have an alternate theory: The King of Pop gave himself the fatal dose when the cardiologist left the singer's bedroom.

Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Fleak also acknowledged Thursday that she accidentally handled a syringe found on the floor of Jackson's bedroom, leaving a thumbprint. In addition, she said she moved a vial of medication from the floor in order to get a better photograph of an empty bottle of propofol that was next to Jackson's bed.

Fleak is one of the first investigators to testify in the case and has undergone the most extensive questioning by defense lawyers of any witness thus far about details and any missteps that may have been made after Jackson's death.

She also testified about Jackson medical records that Murray turned over in response to a subpoena that referenced treatments between 2006 and 2008 but made no mention of propofol.

In testimony Wednesday, Fleak detailed numerous medications that were found in Jackson's bedroom and closet area.

By the end of the day, more than three dozen bottles of medicine were lined up in two jagged rows on the edge of the prosecution table, directly in front of jurors.

Prosecutors will work Thursday to begin explaining to jurors how the drugs interacted and led to the superstar's death. Deputy District Attorney David Walgren told a judge he would call a toxicology expert and a coroner's investigator to testify.

Also Wednesday, Walgren played a more than four-minute recording of a rambling, slurring Jackson found on Murray's cellphone. The recording was made just six weeks before the singer died in June 2009.

In the call, Jackson is heard telling Murray he planned to use proceeds from his comeback concerts to build a world-class children's hospital. After saying he hoped the patients would be spared some of the pain of his own life, Jackson's voice is heard at the end of the recording, mumbling ominously, "I am asleep."

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AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch contributed to this report.

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McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP