LOS ANGELES (AP) - The defense for the doctor charged in Michael Jackson's death surprised prosecutors and a judge on Wednesday, dropping a key claim that the singer swallowed a fatal dose of an anesthetic while the physician wasn't looking.
Dr. Conrad Murray's attorneys have for months suggested that Jackson could have swallowed propofol, which is normally given through an IV drop in hospital settings.
They told jurors in opening statements that they would present a theory that Jackson swallowed several pills of the sedative lorazepam and somehow self-administered the propofol - killing the singer before he had a chance to close his eyes.
On Wednesday, without jurors in the courtroom, attorney J. Michael Flanagan said he commissioned a study about the effects of propofol if swallowed, mainly to counter one by a key prosecution expert that it would have been negligible.
Flanagan said the defense study confirmed that the effect would be "trivial." "We are not going to assert at any time during this trial that Michael Jackson orally administered propofol," Flanagan said.
Deputy District Attorney David Walgren and Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor appeared surprised by the disclosure. It was unclear, however, if the defense planned to argue that Jackson might have injected himself with the fatal dose.
The defense announcement may have hurt its overall case, experts said.
"This is potentially devastating for the defense," said Manny Medrano, a former federal prosecutor who now practices criminal defense. He said that since the defense proposed in opening statements that Jackson may have self-administered propofol, "that will become the elephant in the room for jurors."
He said he felt the 11th hour switch in direction shows "a lack of preparation and failure to really think the defense theory through."
In recent days, Flanagan has focused his questions toward prosecution witnesses on the effect that lorazepam might have had on Jackson. Lorazepam was detected in Jackson's stomach contents after he died.
Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
Prosecutors are in the final stages of their case against Murray, with three expert witnesses set to testify about their impressions of Murray's actions in the days and hours before Jackson's death and his efforts to revive him.