On the heels of the L.A. County Coroner’s announcement on Friday that Michael Jackson’s death is being considered a homicide, California Attorney General Jerry Brown is getting into the case.
Brown announced that he is launching his own independent investigation of several doctors whose names have been involved in the investigation. Though no doctors were identified in Brown’s statement, the most likely candidates are Jackson’s personal doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray, and his dermatologist, Arnold Klein.
"Responding to a request from the LAPD, agents from my office will investigate several physicians whose names have come up in the course of the Michael Jackson death inquiry," Brown said. "This investigation is at its earliest stages, and no conclusions can be drawn at this point."
Police met with representatives from the attorney general’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration on Aug. 20 to discuss information found during the investigation, and bureau agents will now further review pertinent documents and records.
The coroner’s report issued Friday said that propofol and Lorazepam — also known as ativan — were the primary drugs that caused the pop singer’s death on June 25.
Now that the coroner has determined Michael Jackson’s death was a homicide, it’s up to the district attorney’s office to determine what charges, if any, should be filed.
Laurie L. Levenson, a criminal law professor at Loyola Law School, said homicide has become a "scary word" because of nonstop cable news reporting. "It just means that Jackson died at the hands of another," she said, adding that the ruling does not mean his death was necessarily intentional or accidental.
"It’s likely that they’re working towards a criminal charge, but at this stage it would be absolutely premature to say based on a coroner’s report," Levenson said.
"The coroner’s office has had a long time to go everything, and it’s come to the conclusion of homicide. There’s got to be a reason for them to think that," said Steve Cron, a criminal defense attorney and law professor at Pepperdine University who has represented Paula Poundstone and the Stone Temple Pilot’s Scott Weiland.
"We’re all assuming it’s Conrad Murray, but it could be some other person — or more than one person — whose name hasn’t surfaced."
If the D.A.’s office does agree with the coroner’s ruling that Jackson died at the hands of another, it must then decide if there is enough evidence to prosecute whoever is responsible for his death.
To make this determination, the D.A.’s office will be looking at "every bit of evidence it’s seized since he died," including things from Murray’s medical office, items from Jackson’s home and statements from various witnesses, Cron said.
If Murray were to stand accused, that evidence would be integral in determining what the doctor was guilty of. He could be charged with criminal negligence for
involuntary manslaughter, a crime which typically carries around three years in prison. However, if he’s charged with gross recklessness, he could face life behind bars.
"It’s the difference between driving 50 in a 35 mile-per-hour speed zone when it’s raining — you didn’t really think you were gonna kill anybody — as opposed to driving your car up on the sidewalk of the Third Street Promenade at 7 o’clock on Saturday. You knew the chance of somebody getting hit was greater," explained professor Stanely Goldman, who also teaches law at Loyola Law School.
Though the investigation could technically take years, the attorney estimates a ruling will be made "within a couple of months."
The coroner’s ruling came in a news release given to the media on Friday, rather than in a full coroner’s report. It said the coroner had completed its investigation into Jackson’s death earlier this month.
The coroner had no comment on the completed investigation. The final report, including the complete toxicology report, will remain on security hold per request by the LAPD and the L.A. County District Attorney.
Murray’s lawyer, Edward Chernoff, told the Associated Press on Friday that he didn’t understand why only a brief summary of the results were issued to the public. Chernoff said the report seemed like "gamesmanship" and that he wants to know what levels of the drugs were detected.
Earlier this week, a law enforcement official leaked to the AP that Jackson’s death was being ruled as a homicide.
Police have been involved in an investigation focused around the doctors who treated the singer, including his dermatologist Arnold Klein and his personal doctor, Conrad Murray, who admitted giving the singer a combination of drugs hours before his death at a rented Los Angeles mansion.
However, through his lawyer, Murray said he had not administered drugs that would have caused the death.
Earlier, Murray told investigators he had been treating Jackson for insomnia. Because he was worried Jackson might become addicted to the propofol, he said he was lowering the singer’s dosage to 25 milligrams and adding Lorezepam and Midazolam to the singer’s drug cocktail.
That was the combination he gave Jackson two days prior to his death, and it helped Jackson sleep. The following day, Murray said he only gave Jackson the two sedatives without propofol.
But at 1:30 a.m. on June 25, he gave Jackson more drugs, starting with a 10-milligram dose of Valium. At 2 a.m., Jackson received two milligrams of Lorazepam, and two milligrams of Midazolam around 3 a.m. He had repeats of those doses at 5 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Jackson still could not sleep.
So at around 10:40, after Jackson’s "repeated demands/requests" for propofol — which he called his "milk" — Murray gave the singer 25 milligrams of the drug. Jackson then fell asleep.
Murray said he stayed with Jackson for 10 minutes, after which he went to the bathroom. When he returned about two minutes later, Jackson had stopped breathing.
Though he disputes the claims, unsealed documents released by the Harris County District Clerk in Houston on Wednesday showed Murray waited 82 minutes before phoning paramedics.