LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson’s death was a homicide caused primarily by the powerful anesthetic propofol and another sedative, the coroner announced Friday in a highly anticipated ruling that increases the likelihood of criminal charges against the pop star’s personal doctor.
The Los Angeles County coroner’s office determined the cause of death was “acute propofol intoxication.” Other sedatives contributed to the death, most notably lorazepam, sold under the brand name Ativan. Additional drugs detected in Jackson’s system were midazolam, diazepam, lidocaine and ephedrine.
The coroner did not release Jackson’s full autopsy report, citing an ongoing security hold at the request of Los Angeles authorities as they continue investigating the case.
The 50-year-old Jackson died June 25 at his rented Los Angeles mansion. Dr. Conrad Murray, the Las Vegas cardiologist who was the pop star’s personal physician, told police he gave Jackson propofol that morning after a series of sedatives failed to help Jackson sleep.
Murray has not been identified as a suspect but is the target of what police term a manslaughter investigation.
Murray has been interviewed twice by police. According to court records, he told investigators that over about six hours he injected Jackson with two doses each of the sedatives lorazepam and midazolam. Finally, around 10:40 a.m., Murray said he succumbed to Jackson’s demands and administered propofol, a drug Murray said he had given Jackson every night for six weeks.
Propofol, dubbed “milk of amnesia” among anesthesia professionals, is commonly used to render patients unconscious for surgery. It’s only supposed to be administered by anesthesia professionals in medical settings and, because of its potency, requires the patient be closely monitored at all times. Using propofol strictly as a sleep agent violates medical guidelines.
Except for a brief video posted to YouTube, Murray has not spoken publicly since Jackson’s death. In the video, he said: “I told the truth and I have faith the truth will prevail.”
Murray’s attorney, Edward Chernoff, has said his client never administered anything to Jackson that “should have” killed him.
The Los Angeles district attorney’s office has been working with the Los Angeles Police Department but has not indicated whether charges will be brought. The coroner’s determination of homicide makes it more likely criminal charges will be filed but does not guarantee it.
Over the past seven years, just a handful of doctors have been convicted of manslaughter, mostly involving their patients’ use of painkillers. To win a conviction, prosecutors would have to show that Murray acted recklessly and with negligence.