Coroner Rules Michael Jackson's Death Homicide

The Los Angeles County Coroner has ruled singer Michael Jackson's death a homicide, The Associated Press reports. Jackson died in his rented Los Angeles mansion on June 25.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

In Los Angeles today, some dramatic news in the Michael Jackson investigation. The Associated Press reports that Jackson's death has been ruled a homicide by the Los Angeles County Coroner's office. Also today, a search warrant affidavit indicates that Jackson had a lethal dosage of a powerful anesthetic in his body at the time of his death.

NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates is monitoring today's developments, and she joins us now from NPR West in California. And Karen, what do we know about this drug that authorities believe caused Jackson's death?

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: Robert, this drug, propofol, is something that's used a lot in hospitals and in medical environments and it's supposed to only be used there. It's a drug that requires meticulous supervision because it can result in the suppression of breath. And what I've been told from the doctors that I talked to is that you always have to have oxygen standing by and someone who is very good at CPR, because it's not uncommon for patients to stop breathing at some point in the operation because their breathing has been depressed.

SIEGEL: Now, this drug was mentioned in a search warrant affidavit that was released today. Tell us more about that and what the search involved.

BATES: This was a affidavit that accompanied a search warrant. The affidavit was unsealed, as I understand it, earlier today in Houston. Doctors went to the offices and the homes of Dr. Conrad Murray to take a look to see what he might have there. I believe the suspicion was that propofol could be found in either of those environments, and they wanted to see what else might turn up.

SIEGEL: Now, Dr. Murray was retained as Michael Jackson's personal physician. It's been reported that Michael Jackson was getting propofol, the anesthetic, not for purposes of surgery, but to help him sleep.

BATES: Right.

SIEGEL: The fact that he apparently had a lethal dosage of it in his bloodstream, what does all that mean for Dr. Murray?

BATES: Obviously that's not a good thing. Allegedly, this unsealed document says that Murray had talked to investigators, had admitted to giving Jackson propofol to help him sleep over his own objection sometimes to say we can try something else, we can do something else. According to this document, Jackson was insistent. And they did it via intravenous application.

Now, apparently, if this document is correct, Murray had been doing this for about six weeks. I think what he'd said to investigators, that he was trying to titrate the dosage downward. He was trying to do less and less and less of it in the hope that his famous patient would be weaned off of it altogether, eventually.

SIEGEL: And he was present at the time of Michael Jackson's death?

BATES: Apparently. That over the course of the evening, starting at about 1:30 in the morning on June 25th, the day that Jackson died, Dr. Murray gave him a combination of drugs over time and apparently they didn't work. They didn't work. And so he went with this final administration of propofol and that's what did him in. Jackson stopped breathing, Murray left to get help and when he came back, the rest as we know it is history.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Karen.

BATES: Thanks, Robert.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates in California. Again, the news: an Associated Press report that Jackson's death - Michael Jackson's death - has been ruled a homicide by the Los Angeles County coroner.

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