DA inches closer to indicting Jackson’s doctor, official says
Gross negligence expected to play role in charges
LOS ANGELES - Nearly seven months after Michael Jackson’s death stunned the world, the official investigation of his death is edging toward conclusion with prosecutors prepared to seek an indictment of Jackson’s doctor on a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
The fate of Dr. Conrad Murray has been the subject of speculation since he found Jackson unconscious in his home in Los Angeles in June. Jackson was preparing for a strenuous concert comeback in London, and Murray, a cardiologist, had been hired as his personal physician for the tour.
A law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation remains open said yesterday that Murray would be prosecuted on a theory of gross negligence alleging that his treatment of Jackson was an extreme departure from the standard of care normally followed by physicians.
The coroner has ruled Jackson’s death at age 50 was a homicide caused by acute intoxication by the powerful anesthetic propofol, with other sedatives a contributing factor.
Propofol depresses breathing and heart rate while lowering blood pressure. It is supposed to be administered by an anesthesia professional in a medical setting.
The singer died after Murray administered propofol and two other sedatives to get the chronic insomniac to sleep, court documents state. Murray told police he left the room to use the bathroom, and phone records show he also made calls for 47 minutes around the time Jackson encountered problems.
When Murray realized Jackson was unresponsive, he began frantic efforts to revive him, but Jackson never regained consciousness.
As the police investigation neared an end, criminal attorney J. Michael Flanagan said yesterday that he had been hired to join Houston attorney Edward Chernoff in representing Murray.
In addition, Chernoff released a statement saying he had not received notice that a grand jury was hearing the case or inviting Murray to testify.
Chernoff spokeswoman Miranda Sevcik said earlier that Murray neither prescribed nor administered anything that should have killed Jackson.
A final legal action could be weeks away, after the case is formally transferred to the district attorney’s office by the Los Angeles Police Department. If a grand jury indictment is sought, secret hearings would be held, and the panel would have the final decision on possible charges.
The district attorney’s office is waiting for Los Angeles police to turn over the case before presenting it to a grand jury, the source said.
However, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office denied that any decisions have been made.
“We have been working closely with the Los Angeles police during the pendency of this investigation,’’ spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said. “There is no case before us at present, and no final decision has been made.’’
To prove a charge of involuntary manslaughter, authorities must show there was a reckless action that created a risk of death or great bodily injury. If a doctor is aware of the risk, there might also be an issue of whether the patient knows that risk and decided to take it.
A large number of witnesses have been interviewed by police, including those who were present during Jackson’s last days and those who worked with him in preparation for his comeback concert, “This Is It.’’