The last time we met
Michael Jackson trial propofol expert Dr. Steven Shafer testified that Dr. Jon Norberg endangered his wife when he administered the drug to her in their home without proper monitoring or medical equipment. We also found out that Norberg does not deny rendering his wife unconscious with propofol and then having sex with her as she lay unconscious. In fact he readily admits it. Shafer pointed out that this further endangered Ms. Norberg since it is rather difficult to have sex with someone whom you are supposed to be monitoring after the administration of a powerful anesthetic. On Thursday Dr. Norberg’s attorney challenged Shafer, trying to undermine his testimony. On cross examination, Dr. Shafer acknowledged that patients can” respond differently” to the drug. Shafer acknowledged that beyond what was in the affidavit and Alonna Norberg’s statements, he didn’t know exactly how, when and in what dosage Jon Norberg administered the drug. He agreed with Hoy that Jon Norberg would have been in a better position – “in fact, the only position,” Hoy said – to make observations required under the guidelines to determine his wife’s level of sedation.
“Candidly, no amount of calculations and estimations and arithmetic can substitute for that type of observation under the guidelines, correct?” Hoy asked. “Correct,” Shafer said.
Big deal. The same can be said for every single drug in existence and this does not change the truth of Shafer’s contentions. Use of propofol in someone’s home in doses that result in sedation or unconsciousness, which Norberg admits to, is ALWAYS below the standard of care, and when done without proper monitoring is inherently dangerous…VERY dangerous…eh Michael Jackson? ALWAYS.
But the real jaw dropping testimony came in the form of a recording from a telephone call Alonna Norberg made to her husband from the back of a police car while law enforcement listened in. It was an attempt to get Norberg “on tape” admitting to giving his wife propofol against her will and then having sex with her as she became incapacitated. And it did not disappoint. From Forum Communications:
With police listening in to the phone call, Alonna Norberg’s voice strained with emotion as she challenged her husband to explain why she woke up on the morning of June 17, 2011, with the memory of him committing a sex act on her.
She described the memory as “a clip in time.” She recalled not being able to breathe and then, suddenly, nothing.
“I should be able to remember the end of the story,” she said. “I should be able to have been woken up if you were sedating me or if it was the Diprivan. I should have been able to take care of myself. But I have this, that memory. What happened? Tell me about it. Tell me what happened.”
The phone conversation recorded by police, played Thursday in Cass County District Court, was the first time jurors heard from defendant Jon Norberg, the orthopedic surgeon accused of drugging his wife, also a doctor, with Diprivan – the brand name for the powerful sedative propofol – and committing sex acts on her without her consent.
The call was one of two that Alonna Norberg made to her husband on July 5, 2011, as she sat near their south Fargo home in an unmarked police car with Fargo Detective Paul Holte, a second police detective and a private investigator hired by Alonna Norberg’s divorce attorney.
Over the phone, Jon Norberg responded to his wife’s demand for an explanation.
“When I give you the Diprivan, you get very – you’re, ‘I love you, I love you,’ and you want to get all kissy and smoochy, and I asked if you would do that, and you did,” he said, according to Holte’s reading of the transcript in court.
“Jon, I would never consent to that,” Alonna Norberg said.
“To oral sex?” he asked.
“To medicine that makes me out of it, that you could do that to me where I can’t breathe and you don’t let me wake up,” she said. “How could you not let me wake up?”
“There was no sign that you were having any difficult breathing or anything or hurting,” he said.
Different focus on call:
Jon Norberg’s attorney, Robert Hoy, focused on a different part of the conversation, which was recorded after Alonna Norberg’s initial interview with police and shortly before police executed a search warrant on the couple’s home.
After she told her husband, “I just want to be done” with the propofol, he said, “I don’t have a problem with it; it’s just you’re the one that’s always suggested the propofol.”
“Really,” she said flatly, adding, “We need to be honest with each other.”
Cross examining Detective Holte, Hoy jumped on the fact that Jon Norberg placed the decision to use the propofol on his wife, and this was BEFORE he knew she had gone to the police and an investigation was under way. He argued this was evidence that the couple had agreed on the use of propofol to treat her chronic pain from an immune system disorder.
The defense is taking the position that Alonna Norberg made up the allegations against her husband – who earlier indicated that he wanted a divorce but then agreed to try to work things out – because she wanted custody of their children in any divorce and knew she wouldn’t get it because of her dependency on prescription drugs and psychiatric disorders. It turned out that it was Alonna who would file for divorce shortly after she went to police with her allegations.
How the investigation began, again from Forum Communications:
Jurors heard for the first time Thursday what triggered the police investigation into the alleged sexual assaults on June 16-17 and June 19-20 of last year.
Fargo police Officer Michael Quiner said he was working the evening shift June 20 when Chuck Anderson, the private investigator, gave him a couple of bags full of items he said were related to a possible sexual assault at the Norbergs’ home.
Police weren’t able to interview Alonna Norberg about the allegations until July 5, when Anderson brought her to the police station, Holte said. On June 20, Alonna Norberg had left town with the couple’s three young children.
Her younger sister, Renae Beeter of Minot, testified that she received a phone call on June 20 from their older sister saying Alonna Norberg was leaving Fargo with the children and Beeter needed to pick her up.
Beeter said the siblings were close, but she had stepped back from her relationship with Alonna Norberg in the past year because she became frustrated with how Alonna Norberg was dealing with her struggles with her husband or things happening in her life.
“It got to the point where I truly believed she had this perceived inability that she couldn’t make decisions and she couldn’t stand up for herself. And I became angry because I didn’t understand that,” Beeter said.
She picked up Alonna Norberg and the children in Steele and drove back to Minot. Alonna Norberg’s demeanor during the trip was “shock, disbelief, total devastation,” and she cried most of the way, Beeter said.
Beeter described her reaction to hearing that Jon Norberg had given her sister propofol.
“My first thought was, ‘Alonna, he’s never going to admit this, you know. He’s going to say you’re crazy.’ And my first thought is, there’s got to be some proof,” she said.
They phoned their cousin, a pharmacist in Minot, to find out if propofol would still be in Alonna Norberg’s system. When they got back to Minot, Beeter said she wanted to take her sister to the emergency room.
“And as she’s crying inconsolably, she just said, ‘I don’t want to get Jon in trouble,’ ” she said.
Alonna Norberg’s urine was tested in Minot, and propofol was detected in the sample, along with the painkillers oxycodone and tramadol, Holte said.
Holte also testified about items seized during the July 5 search of the couple’s home, including bottles of Diprivan and a bottle of sevoflurane, an ether-like substance Jon Norberg is alleged to have used to render his wife unconscious before sexually assaulting her.
Hoy highlighted what police didn’t find during the search: three plastic totes full of prescription pill bottles, most of them empty, that Alonna Norberg had removed from the house the day before the search. Holte said she didn’t disclose that activity during the July 5 interview, and she later explained that they were medications that had been discontinued or she wasn’t using anymore.
Tags: Dr. Steven Shafer
, cross examination