- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 25, 2009

LOS ANGELES | The Los Angeles County coroner has ruled Michael Jackson’s death a homicide and a combination of drugs was the cause, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press, a finding that makes it more likely criminal charges will be filed against the doctor who was with the pop star when he died.

Forensic tests found that the powerful anesthetic propofol acted with at least two sedatives to cause Mr. Jackson’s death June 25 in his rented Los Angeles mansion, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the findings have not been publicly released.

Dr. Conrad Murray, a Las Vegas cardiologist who became Mr. Jackson’s personal physician weeks before his death, is the target of a manslaughter investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department. A search warrant affidavit unsealed Monday in Houston includes a detailed account of what Dr. Murray told investigators.

According to the document, Dr. Murray said he’d been treating Mr. Jackson for insomnia for about six weeks with 50 milligrams of propofol every night via an intravenous drip. But he said he feared Mr. Jackson was forming an addiction to the anesthetic, which is normally used in hospitals only, and was attempting to wean his patient by lowering the dose to 25 mg and adding the sedatives lorazepam and midazolam.

That combination succeeded in helping Mr. Jackson sleep two days before his death, so the next day, Dr. Murray told detectives he cut off the propofol - and Mr. Jackson fell asleep with just the two sedatives.

Then about 1:30 a.m. on June 25, starting with a 10-mg tab of Valium, Dr. Murray said he tried a series of drugs instead of propofol to make Mr. Jackson sleep. The injections included 2 mg of lorazepam about 2 a.m., 2 mg of midazolam about 3 a.m., and repeats of each at 5 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., respectively.

But they didn’t work.

Dr. Murray told detectives that about 10:40 a.m. he gave in to Mr. Jackson’s “repeated demands/requests” for propofol, which the singer referred to as his “milk.” He administered 25 mg of the white-colored liquid - a relatively small dose - and finally, Mr. Jackson fell asleep.

Dr. Murray remained with the sedated Mr. Jackson for about 10 minutes, then left for the bathroom. No more than two minutes later, he returned - and found Mr. Jackson had stopped breathing.

“There’s no surprise there” that death could result from such a combination, said Dr. David Zvara, anesthesia chairman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“All those drugs act in synergy with each other,” Dr. Zvara said. Adding propofol on top of all the other sedatives “tipped the balance.”

Dr. Murray has spoken to police and last week released a video saying he “told the truth, and I have faith the truth will prevail.” Dr. Murray did not say anything about the drugs he gave to Mr. Jackson. Dr. Murray’s attorney, Edward Chernoff, had no comment but has previously said Dr. Murray never administered anything that “should have” killed Mr. Jackson.

A call to the coroner’s office was not returned Monday.

The coroner’s office has not publicly released its autopsy findings, citing a request from police detectives to withhold results until their investigation is complete.

Homicide, or “death at the hands of another,” is one of five possible findings in a coroner’s death investigation. The designation does not necessarily mean a crime was committed though it is a useful starting point for prosecutors, said Dr. Michael Baden, the former chief medical examiner in New York City and a forensics expert involved in many high-profile murder cases.

cJustin Pritchard, Alicia Chang and Michael Gracyzk contributed to this report.

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