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Psychiatrist testifies Michael Jackson was dependent on opioids

8/27/2013, 12:27 p.m.
Michael Jackson announces his new concert series "This Is It" in London on March 5, 2009. CNN

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A psychiatrist with a background in drug addiction testified today that Michael Jackson had a dependency on opioids, particularly the pain medication Demerol.

Dr. Petros Levounis, chairman of the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Department of Psychiatry in New Jersey, also said Jackson shopped for doctors who would facilitate his addiction and was secretive about his chemical dependency.

Doctors who assisted the pop star in obtaining opioids exceeded the boundaries of the proper practice of medicine, Levounis testified.

Katherine Jackson filed suit in September 2010 on behalf of herself and her late son’s three children, alleging that “This Is It” tour promoter AEG Live hired Dr. Conrad Murray to care for the singer and failed to supervise him properly. Trial of the suit is beginning its 18th week in Los Angeles Superior Court.

AEG Live attorneys maintain that Jackson hired Murray in 2006 as his personal physician and chose him to be his doctor during 50 sold-out concert dates at London’s O2 Arena as part of an independent contractor arrangement.

Murray was convicted in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s June 25, 2009, drug overdose death and sentenced to four years in jail. The doctor intravenously administered propofol as a sleep aid to the singer, who was living in a rented Holmby Hills home while rehearsing for the tour.

Levounis, testifying on behalf of AEG Live, said under questioning by attorney Kathryn Cahan that he studied the depositions of both lay people and professionals connected with the case. He said the depositions he perused ranged from those of Katherine and Prince Jackson — the late singer’s oldest son — to other doctors who have given opinions both similar to and different from his regarding the singer’s drug addictions.

He said he spent about 100 hours preparing for what is his first-ever testimony in court in the trial of a lawsuit.

Bill Hetherman | City News Service