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A state witness in the drug trial of Elvis...

By
PAMELA MURPHY

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A state witness in the drug trial of Elvis Presley's doctor testified Thursday the physician told him Presley was 'getting drugs from everywhere under the sun.'

Pharmacist Jack Kirsch gave the testimony under cross-examination in the trial of Dr. George Nichopoulos, accused of overprescribing addictive drugs to the rock 'n' roll king and others.

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Defense attorney James F. Neal asked Kirsch -- who pleaded no contest last year to charges of filling 175 prescriptions for 11,000 pills for Presley -- about his long-time friendship with Nichopoulos, Presley's doctor for 11 years.

Prosecutors jumped to their feet to object, but Criminal Court Judge Bernie Weinman allowed Neal to pursue the line of questioning.

'I want to take you back to the life of Elvis Presley,' Neal told Kirsch. 'Do you agree that you had conversations with Dr. Nichopoulos in which Dr. Nichopoulos referred to Elvis Presley as a problem patient?'

'On several occasions,' the pharmacist replied.

'Did he mention that Mr. Presley was getting drugs from everywhere under the sun?' Neal asked.

'Absolutely,' Kirsch answered.

Presley was found dead in a bathroom of his Memphis mansion on Aug. 16, 1977 -- the day after he allegedly received the largest single batch of drugs that Nichopoulos prescribed for him. The cause of death was officially listed as heart problems, but an autopsy reportedly showed the entertainer's body contained traces of several different drugs. The autopsy report has never been released.

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Nichopoulos, 53, Presley's physician for 11 years, is charged with 14 counts of overprescribing uppers, downers and painkillers to Presley, entertainer Jerry Lee Lewis, himself and others.

Prosecutor James Wilson called Kirsch to the stand to get into the record 56 prescriptions for a variety of patients. Most of the prescriptions were filled at Kirsch's pharmacy.

Neal sought to, in effect, make Kirsch a defense witness.

'I propose to show that in conversations with Mr. Kirsch that Dr. Nichopoulos told him about how Elvis Presley was a problem patient. This is the heart of this case. It goes to show the state of mind,' Neal told the judge.

'As a matter of fact, the state has said this is the issue, to show the state of mind,' Weinman said, and allowed Neal to continue.

'Didn't he ask you to help him by asking manfacturers about placebos (pills which contain innocuous substances)?' Neal asked.

'Yes,' Kirsch replied.

'He's getting nothing but a saline or water solution (in the placebos)?' Neal asked.

'That is true,' Kirsch said.

'Didn't he (Dr. Nichopoulos) tell you about drugs being shipped to Elvis Presley and didn't he bring them to you and ask you what they were?' Neal asked.

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'That's right,' Kirsch said. 'Some of them -- I had no idea what they were.' Kirsch said he was familiar with some of the other drugs but they were not identified.

Neal asked Kirsch whether Nichopoulos would order quantities of drugs for the entire Presley entourage before Presley went on tour.

Kirsch said he filled prescriptions both for Presley and the doctor before Presley went on tour but he did not know who actually took the drugs.

Jurors earlier shuffled through hundrerds of prescriptions for Presley and other patients listed in the indictment.

Neal objected to the jurors seeing the prescriptions because some were dated outside of the time frame of the indictment -- May 17, 1976 to Oct. 27, 1979 -- and some dealt with drugs not covered in the indictment.

Weinman instructed jurors that this was the case.

Before the prescriptions were passed to the jury, Neal cross-examined handwriting expert Robert Muhlberger, who testified Wednesday that Nichopoulos altered prescriptions to increase the amounts of addictive drugs he originally prescribed for some of his patients.

Muhlberger testified Wednesday that he was unable to find any alterations on prescriptions written for Presley, but told Neal on cross-examination Thursday that he had found two.

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Muhlberger said he could not identify the handwriting of the person who made the changes.

Muhlberger said he had reviewed 685 prescription forms -- 628 containing Nichopoulos' handwriting, 56 with no handwriting, prescriptions presumably called in to pharmacies -- and one with the signature of another, unidentified, physician. He said 29 of the prescriptions were altered.

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