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Americas

LA coroner says death from 'acute intoxication' was homicide

©

Video by Catherine VIETTE

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-08-29

Michael Jackson's death by "acute intoxication" from the anaesthetic drug propofol has been ruled a homicide by the LA county coroner, fuelling speculation that charges may be brought against the personal physician who administered the drug.

AFP - Michael Jackson's death was declared a homicide by Los Angeles coroners on Friday as they revealed the singer had a lethal cocktail of six different drugs in his body when he died.
   
Ending several weeks of feverish speculation following Jackson's sudden death in Los Angeles on June 25, the county coroner's office issued a brief statement ruling that the superstar's death was unlawful.
   
The statement said that while "acute intoxication" from the powerful anesthetic propofol was the primary cause of death, Jackson, 50, had also suffered from the effects of other drugs in his system.
   
As well as propofol, powerful drugs including lorazepam, midazolam, diazepam, lidocaine and ephedrine were found in Jackson's body.
   
The coroner's statement said police investigators and public prosecutors had ordered that the full toxicology report concerning Jackson be withheld until further notice.
   
Jackson's family welcomed the findings.
   
"The Jackson family again wishes to commend the actions of the coroner, the LAPD and other law enforcement agencies, and looks forward to the day that justice can be served," the family said in a statement.
   
The coroner's announcement will fuel speculation that authorities are likely to charge Jackson's personal physician Conrad Murray in connection with the death. Cardiologist Murray was the last person to see Jackson alive.
   
A lawyer for Murray issued a barbed statement to Friday's announcement, saying the coroner's release "contains nothing new."
   
"For two months we have been hearing the same information, usually from leaks out of the coroner's office," attorney Ed Chernoff said in a statement.
   
"One has to wonder why the coroner felt compelled to release anything at all if the police investigation is not yet complete."
   
According to court documents unsealed in Houston, Texas, on Monday, multiple drugs were administered to Jackson by Murray in the hours before his death.
   
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."
   
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.
   
Propofol is a powerful anesthetic used to induce unconsciousness in patients undergoing major surgery in hospital. Medical professionals say it should never be used by private individuals at home.


   

 

The affidavit unsealed on Monday revealed that Murray confessed to investigators two days after the star died that he had been giving Jackson 50 milligrams of propofol nightly during the six weeks prior to the event.
   
As part of their investigation, police and federal agents have already 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.
   
Jackson is to be buried at a cemetery in Glendale, California on September 3, his family announced last week. They had originally planned to bury him on Saturday -- the day he would have turned 51.

Date created : 2009-08-28

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