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L.A. County coroner's office roiled by leaks in Brittany Murphy, Michael Jackson cases

December 23, 2009 |  7:12 am

The L.A. County coroner's office is under scrutiny again after confidential information about a celebrity's death was leaked.

The latest case involves the sudden death on Sunday of "Clueless" star Brittany Murphy. TMZ.com has published details about prescription drugs that the coroner's office found in her home.

Coroner's officials said that they don't know how the information was leaked to TMZ, but that they were angry about it and vowed to investigate.

"The Los Angeles County Department of Coroner is aware of the information that has appeared in the news today regarding its inquiry into the cause and manner of death of Ms. Murphy,'' the office said in a statement. "The inquiry into the death is ongoing, and it is the policy and practice of the Department of Coroner to only release detailed information in cases where the final cause of death has been determined and the case investigation has been completed and closed by the deputy medical examiner."

This is the second time in less than a year in which the coroner's office has dealt with a high-profile leak.

This summer, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators looked into whether coroner’s employees illegally leaked or sold private information from Michael Jackson’s death investigation.

After interviewing coroner’s staff members and consulting with the district attorney’s office, investigators from the sheriff’s internal criminal investigations bureau determined that no criminal violations occurred.

County supervisors called for the Jackson inquiry July 25 after The Times reported that the pop star’s death certificate had been viewed more than 300 times, including by half a dozen coroner’s employees not involved in the investigation.

Officials said employees who inappropriately viewed Jackson’s records were warned -- the proper discipline, according to county civil services rules.

-- Shelby Grad

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