Police look for evidence of manslaughter in Michael Jackson's death, attorney says [Updated]
A search warrant executed today at the Houston offices of Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's personal doctor, indicates that authorities are investigating "the offense of manslaughter" in relation to the pop star's death, Murray's attorney said.
The statement by attorney Edward Chernoff is the strongest indication yet that investigators are considering serious criminal charges against anyone connected with Jackson's sudden death June 25.
“We can confirm that a search warrant was executed today on Dr. Murray’s offices in Houston Texas," Chernoff said in a statement. "We reviewed the warrant and remained on the premises while the search was being executed. The search was conducted by members of the DEA, two Robbery-Homicide detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department and Houston Police officers. The search warrant authorized law enforcement to search for and seize items, including documents, they believed constituted evidence of the offense of manslaughter. Law enforcement concluded their search around 12:30 p.m., and left with a forensic image of a business computer hard drive and 21 documents. None of the documents taken had previously been requested by law enforcement or the L.A. Coroner’s office."
On Tuesday, The Times reported that the Los Angeles County coroner's office had requested another interview with Murray and were seeking additional information from him.
Murray, 51, is a central figure in the probe as a witness and a possible criminal target. He discovered Jackson unconscious in the bedroom of his rented Holmby Hills home and performed CPR on him until paramedics arrived.
Police questioned Murray at UCLA Medical Center, where Jackson was pronounced dead, and two days later, the physician and his attorney met with police detectives for three hours.
Through his lawyer, Murray has said he administered no narcotics or other medications that "should have" caused Jackson's death and remains puzzled as to his death.
Murray is one of several doctors the Los Angeles Police Department and other agencies are investigating as they try to determine the circumstance of Jackson's death. Authorities removed prescription drugs and other "medical evidence" from Jackson's home and are trying to determine whether they played a role in his death. Murray has not been named as any type of criminal suspect, and his attorney said he did nothing wrong.
Murray is currently in Las Vegas, where he has his primary practice, according to his lawyer. He worked about two days a month at the Houston clinic, which has served a poor, predominantly black neighborhood. He opened the clinic in 2006 in honor of his late father, who had been a longtime physician and community activist in the neighborhood.
[Updated at 12:30 p.m.: Items seized from Murray’s office included rolodex cards, e-mails, a photocopied picture of Murray and a folder containing the doctor’s bio, according to a source knowledgeable with the search. Investigators also took paperwork, such as receipts for a public storage unit and cellphone and pamphlets from the Sleep Center of Doctors Hospital in Houston, located near Murray’s clinic.
Although Murray’s attorney said the search warrant authorized law enforcement officials to seek evidence in support of manslaughter, sources familiar with the investigation cautioned that the probe may not lead to any criminal charges.
To obtain a search warrant, authorities are required to show probable cause for a felony. Police would not discuss the nature of the search warrant, its contents or the statement issued by Murray’s lawyer. “It is an ongoing investigation into circumstances surrounding Michael Jackson’s death,” said L.A. Police Department Commander Pat Gannon. No determination has been made yet whether Jackson’s death was a homicide or an accident.]
-- Harriet Ryan and Andrew Blankstein
Full coverage: Michael Jackson's Life and Death
Interactive timeline: Michael Jackson | 1958-2009
Video Q&A: Times reporters on Michael Jackson's death