LOS ANGELES, Aug 24, 2009 (AFP) - Lethal levels of a powerful anesthetic killed Michael Jackson, according to court documents that placed the pop star's personal physician under mounting police scrutiny.
The documents, which shed light on one of the last remaining questions about Jackson's sudden death two months ago, raised the possibility that the death will be ruled a homicide and that criminal charges will be brought against the singer's personal physician, who was with the star on the morning of his death.
|This undated handout photograph provided July 29, 2009 by the legal firm Stradley, Chernoff & Alford LLP shows doctor Conrad Murray (AFP photo)|
Cardiologist Conrad Murray has been the target of a manslaughter investigation for weeks, but the Los Angeles County Coroner's office on Monday would not confirm or deny that the death was ruled a homicide.
"We have not released the findings and the case is still under a security hold," said Ed Winter of the Los Angeles County coroner's office.
Responding to reports that the coroner had declared Jackson's death a homicide, Winter told AFP: "We have not said that."
A fatal cocktail of drugs, including the anesthetic propofol, whose trade name is Diprivan, was administered to the pop icon hours before he died, according to the documents unsealed Monday in Houston, Texas and tied to the investigation into Jackson's death on June 25 at age 50.
Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran "reviewed the preliminary toxicology results and his preliminary assessment of Jackson's cause of death was due to lethal levels of propofol," according to a Los Angeles search warrant affidavit cited by US media.
Murray administered propofol and other drugs to Jackson -- at the star's insistence -- to treat his insomnia, but was worried Jackson had developed an addiction and "tried to wean Jackson off of the drug," the affidavit said.
The Jackson family issued a brief statement, saying it "looks forward to the day that justice can be served," but noting it has "full confidence in the legal process."
The affidavit reveals that Murray confessed to investigators two days after the death that he had been giving Jackson 50 milligrams of propofol nightly during the six weeks that preceded his death.
On June 22, he halved Jackson's propofol dose to wean him off the drug and also gave two other sedatives -- lorazepam and midazolam.
The following night, he administered the latter two drugs but withheld propofol, and the star was able to sleep, but throughout the next night, Jackson stayed awake.
"Jackson remained awake and at approximately 1040 hours, Murray finally administered 25 milligrams of propofol, diluted with lidocaine via IV drip to keep Jackson sedated, after repeated demands/requests from Jackson," according to the affidavit.
It stated Murray was monitoring Jackson closely, but then stepped away from his bedside to use the bathroom and when he returned two minutes later, Jackson had stopped breathing.
His attempts to revive him were unsuccessful and Jackson was declared dead at about 2:00 pm local time (2100 GMT).
As part of their investigation, police and federal agents raided Murray's offices in Las Vegas, Nevada and Houston, Texas, as well as a Las Vegas pharmacy that provided the drugs.
Murray told investigators he was not the first doctor to administer propofol to the King of Pop, who referred to the drug as his "milk," LAPD detective Orlando Martinez wrote in the affidavit, citing the cardiologist.
Medical experts said the cocktail of drugs apparently given to Jackson was extremely dangerous and police would need to determine whether administering it was tantamount to medical negligence.
"If all of these drugs... are also shown, this would be a classical case of acute combined drug toxicity," forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht told CNN.