Police hunting for proof of foul play

Authorities searched the Houston clinic of Michael Jackson’s doctor Wednesday, and his attorney said they were seeking evidence of manslaughter. Dr. Conrad Murray had been interviewed by police as a witness to the pop star’s death, but has not been considered a suspect.

Los Angeles police and agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Houston police officers leave the Armstrong Medical Clinic after searching for documents Wednesday.

Los Angeles police and agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Houston police officers leave the Armstrong Medical Clinic after searching for documents Wednesday.

HOUSTON — Authorities searched the Houston clinic of Michael Jackson’s doctor Wednesday, and his attorney said they were seeking evidence of manslaughter.

Dr. Conrad Murray had been interviewed by police as a witness to the pop star’s death, but has not been considered a suspect.

Police have said little about the probe, neither confirming or denying the possibility of criminal charges.

Los Angeles police and agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration went through the Armstrong Medical Clinic on Wednesday for about 2 1/2 hours. Authorities said they were searching for documents.

“The search warrant authorized law enforcement to search for and seize items, including documents, they believed constituted evidence of the offence of manslaughter,” Ed Chernoff, Murray’s attorney, said in a statement posted on his law firm’s website.

The Harris County warrant remains sealed and unavailable to the media.

Chernoff said agents left with “a forensic image” of a computer hard drive and 21 documents.

Murray has emerged as a central figure in the investigation. The doctor, who had been recently hired by Jackson, was with him in his mansion and tried to revive him.

Szeleczky said the agents were looking for Murray’s records, not drugs, but wouldn’t specify further.

She declined to say how the search related to Jackson’s death.

Houston police surrounded the building as the investigators went inside at about 10:30 a.m. DEA spokeswoman Violet Szeleczky said about 20 people were in the Armstrong Medical Clinic, including employees.

A neighbourhood crowd gathered to watch the raid until agents left after 1 p.m. and Houston police told reporters and the onlookers to leave the clinic’s property.

The search of Murray’s office hard drive indicates authorities are looking not just for patient records but also for emails either between the doctor and Jackson or orders for prescription drugs, said Harland Braun, a prominent Los Angeles defence attorney who has represented doctors in cases involving administration of drugs.

Meanwhile, investigators in California also sought more information from Murray, according to Chernoff.

In a statement on his site late Tuesday, Chernoff said investigators from the Los Angeles County coroner’s office have asked for medical records in addition to those already provided by Murray.

“The coroner wants to clear up the cause of death; we share that goal,” Chernoff said in his statement. “Based on Dr. Murray’s minute-by-minute and item-by-item description of Michael Jackson’s last days, he should not be a target of criminal charges.”

It’s still not known what caused Jackson’s death at age 50. The pop star went into cardiac arrest in his bedroom and Murray performed CPR while an ambulance was called, according to Murray’s lawyers.

An autopsy was conducted but results are not expected until next week. The Jackson family had a second autopsy performed and those results also are pending.

Braun said of Wednesday’s raid in Houston that by stating they are investigating what they believe is manslaughter, authorities don’t need to worry about patient-doctor confidentiality — the right doesn’t exist in criminal cases.

To prove a charge of manslaughter, authorities must prove 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 was made aware of that risk and decided to take it. A patient’s complicity in taking the risk could reduce the doctor’s culpability, Braun said.

Investigators have found the powerful anesthetic propofol in Jackson’s home, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation. The person is not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity. The officials are working with the Drug Enforcement Administration and California attorney general’s office to determine how the medications got there.

Also Wednesday, the coroner’s office subpoenaed the records of former Jackson nutritionist Cherilyn Lee for information on her treatment of the singer, Lee’s spokeswoman said.

Belinda Foster says Lee is co-operating with investigators but required a subpoena because the records were protected by law. Lee treated Jackson between January and April, when she says he began persistently asking her for the anesthetic.

Police detectives have already spoken to Murray twice — once immediately after the singer’s death and again two days later. Police investigators say Murray is co-operating in their investigation. The Las Vegas-based doctor is also licensed in California, Nevada and Texas.

Sevcik, Chernoff’s spokeswoman, said the interview with coroner’s investigators might happen Friday. Murray is currently in Las Vegas and Chernoff would be speaking to investigators without the doctor being present.

There was no sign of activity Wednesday at Murray’s medical offices in Las Vegas. Doors were locked and curtains drawn at his practice, Global Cardiovascular Associates.

There was no immediate record of a search warrant for Murray’s medical office or his Las Vegas home, said Esther McElhaney, a Las Vegas court spokeswoman.

But she said police would have 10 days to provide a report to a judge in Las Vegas Justice Court about any items or documents seized if they had searched either location recently.

The DEA has assisted in probes into other celebrity deaths, including the 2007 overdose death of Anna Nicole Smith as well as that of actor Heath Ledger.

Jean Rosenbluth, a University of Southern California law professor, says the agency’s involvement in the Jackson case suggests authorities are looking into whether drugs came from out of state.

Federal drug regulations include controls over whether and how frequently a doctor can write prescriptions over the phone, and DEA agents could be looking to see if these rules were broken, Rosenbluth said.

————

AP writer Watkins reported from Los Angeles. AP writers Ken Ritter in Las Vegas and Linda Deutsch in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
Select Alberta physicians to begin offering COVID-19 vaccine next week

Some Alberta physicians will now be offering the COVID-19 vaccine. In an… Continue reading

An example of zero lot line properties. Red Deer County council approved rezoning to allow zero lot line properties on three streets in Springbrook.
Photo from Red Deer County
Narrower house lots being tested in Springbrook to improve affordability

Zero lot line homes will be built on three streets in Springbrook

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair listens to a speaker during a news conference Tuesday June 9, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Red Deer part of project to support victims of human trafficking

Federal government sends $500k over next four to Alberta-based project

Mayzie the Canada goose is back nesting in a flower pot on a backyard balcony in Anders on the Lake. (Contributed)
Canada goose is back nesting on Red Deer balcony

Third year in a row geese return

FILE - Conor McGregor poses during a ceremonial weigh-in for the UFC 246 mixed martial arts bout in Las Vegas, in this Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, file photo. The UFC intends to welcome a capacity crowd at Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena on July 10, 2021, when Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor fight for the third time. UFC President Dana White announced his plan Wednesday, April 14, 2021, for the promotion's first sellout show in its hometown since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.(AP Photo/John Locher, File)
UFC plans full Vegas crowd in July at Poirier-McGregor fight

The UFC intends to welcome a capacity crowd at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile… Continue reading

Juno Awards signage hangs in downtown Saskatoon on Thursday, March 12, 2020. Organizers of the Juno Awards say they've postponed this year's 50th-anniversary celebration until June 6 "out of an abundance of caution in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Matt Smith
Juno Awards postpone 50th anniversary show date to June 6 amid COVID-19 pandemic

TORONTO — Organizers of the Juno Awards say they’re postponing this year’s… Continue reading

Infrastructure and Communities Minister Catherine McKenna rises in the House of Commons following Question Period Monday March 22, 2021 in Ottawa. McKenna is announcing a $1.5-billion program designed to spur green building through retrofits, upgrades and new construction. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal government unveils $1.5-billion plan to boost green building

OTTAWA — Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna has announced a $1.5-billion program designed… Continue reading

In this Monday, March 15, 2021 file photo a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is pictured in a pharmacy in Boulogne Billancourt, outside Paris.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Christophe Ena, File
AstraZeneca very safe, effective, with extremely rare risk of clots: Health Canada

OTTAWA — There is enough evidence to say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may… Continue reading

Demonstrators take cover from crowd-dispersal munitions from police outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department while protesting the shooting death of Daunte Wright, late Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Minnesota cop will be charged in shooting of Black motorist

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — A prosecutor said Wednesday that he will charge… Continue reading

Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen listens to a question during a news conference Tuesday April 21, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Housing advocates eye federal budget for aid to urban Indigenous providers

OTTAWA — The Trudeau Liberals have told stakeholders in the affordable-housing sector… Continue reading

Two women lay flowers outside Windsor Castle in Windsor, England, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Britain's Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, died Friday April 9 aged 99. His funeral service will take place on Saturday at Windsor Castle. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Queen returns to royal duties after death of Prince Philip

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II has returned to royal duties, four days… Continue reading

The mobile phone icon for the Coinbase app is shown in this photo, in New York, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Coinbase is going public at a time when chatter about cryptocurrencies is everywhere, even at the United States Federal Reserve. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Coinbase soars in market debut, valued near $100 billion

Coinbase made a rousing debut on Wall Street Wednesday, with the digital… Continue reading

Most Read