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Judge Fines Defense Expert $250 For Comment To Jury During Murray Trial

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A defense expert in the trial of Michael Jackson's personal physician was ordered Wednesday to pay a $250 sanction for telling jurors he had been asked by the judge not to testify about his own conversations with the singer's doctor.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael E. Pastor found that Dr. Paul White, the defense's expert on propofol, violated a court order during his Oct. 31 testimony before the jury that heard the involuntary manslaughter case against Dr. Conrad Murray.

Shortly after the judge warned White not to speak about his conversations with Murray, White told jurors that he had been asked by the judge not to comment on anything he learned from speaking with Jackson's doctor.

The testimony took place during a heated cross-examination with prosecutor David Walgren on October 31.

"Sir, I was asked by the Judge not to comment on anything that I learned from speaking with Doctor Murray," Dr. White testified.

"Well, then you just violated the court's instruction," Walgren replied.

"I apologize," Dr. White responded from the witness stand.

The judge said he had initially considered a $1,000 sanction against White, but decided to lower the amount after hearing from White and one of Murray's attorneys, J. Michael Flanagan.

"I find that there was a violation of a lawful court order in this case," the judge said.

White told the judge he had done his best to answer questions that were posed to him and had no idea he was violating a court order by mentioning what the judge had told him.

Flanagan told the judge that he did not think the admonition was "crystal clear," noting that he had unsuccessfully asked to be able to talk to White before he resumed his testimony.

"There wasn't any intentional deception here or violation of the court order," Flanagan said.

Deputy District Attorney David Walgren countered that White "blurted out" the statement after he had already been admonished not to discuss anything about his conversations with Murray and that it was "intentional" and "deliberate."

The judge said White has until Dec. 16 to pay the $250.

Pastor said he had decided not to go forward with proceedings against White involving a media report alleging he had used the word "scumbag" during a court break Oct. 20 -- the day the prosecution's key propofol witness, Dr. Steven Shafer, was on the stand. The judge said he found that was "not direct contempt" and did not want to further address the issue.

Murray remains jailed while awaiting sentencing Nov. 29. Jurors convicted the 58-year-old cardiologist of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's June 25, 2009, death from propofol intoxication.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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