LOS ANGELES – Defense lawyers are seeking urgent tests of two syringes and an IV bag found in Michael Jackson's mansion, arguing that the evidence in the manslaughter case against the singer's doctor is drying up and deteriorating.
According to a transcript of a 40-minute closed session with a judge obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, attorneys for Dr. Conrad Murray said liquids in one of the syringes had already dried up and was now "salt."
Quantities of substances in the syringes and IV bag could be crucial to explaining how the singer died, the lawyers said at the Tuesday hearing.
Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Authorities contend he administered a lethal dose of sedatives, including the anesthetic propofol, to Jackson in the bedroom of his rented mansion in June 2009.
Officials tested what was in the items and found traces of propofol and lidocaine, according to the transcript. But the amounts of the substances were not determined, and defense attorneys contend that may be significant in the case expected to hinge on technical and scientific data.
Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor declined to order testing on the substances Tuesday because he wanted defense attorneys to confer further with prosecutors.
The judge might order the testing late next week if the two sides can agree on how it will be conducted.
"I want to act as quickly as we can," Pastor told the attorneys.
Still, defense attorney Ed Chernoff struck an urgent tone, telling the judge, "We are doing it because the house is on fire. We need a hose."
Chernoff said substances in one broken syringe found at the mansion had dried up since June 2009, when Pastor ordered the evidence preserved. The tests sought by Murray's attorneys will destroy the samples and can only be performed once.
Prosecutor David Walgren questioned why defense attorneys had not raised the issue sooner.
"There are very technical, complex issues," he told the judge, adding he thought an agreement on the testing could eventually be reached.
Defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan told the judge his efforts to get the substances tested has been delayed because an expert in the Los Angeles County coroner's office had been on a lengthy vacation. He argued the tests should have been done after Jackson's death.
"It hasn't been done yet," Flanagan said. "It should have been done a year ago."
Tissue samples in Jackson's body were tested for levels of various substances and led to the coroner's determination that the pop singer died in part from acute propofol intoxication.
The anesthetic is supposed to be administered in hospital settings, but Murray told investigators he had been providing it to Jackson as a sleep aide and had been trying to wean him off the drug.
Chernoff has said the doctor did not give Jackson anything that should have killed him.
The tests are likely to be conducted by the coroner's office. A phone message left for coroner's Assistant Chief Ed Winter was not immediately returned.
Flanagan said the agency told him the makeup of the liquids in the syringes and IV bag were not tested because the values were not necessary to establish the cause of Jackson's death.
Flanagan said in the closed session that the results of the tests "would be very helpful information perhaps for both sides."
Chernoff told the judge results of the testing, which could take a month or more to complete, would not be used during a preliminary hearing scheduled to begin Jan. 4.
Prosecutors will lay out some of their evidence during the hearing, and Pastor will then decide whether there is enough evidence to order Murray to stand trial.