Authorities Raid Houston Office of Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's Physician
Thursday, July 23, 2009
HOUSTON, July 22 -- Dozens of police and federal agents descended on the Houston clinic of Michael Jackson's doctor Wednesday in what his lawyer said was a search for evidence of manslaughter, thrusting the doctor back under suspicion in the singer's death.
Conrad Murray was with Jackson in his final moments June 25 at the singer's rented mansion in Los Angeles and accompanied him to the hospital. He has cooperated with investigators.
Police have said little about the probe, neither confirming nor denying the possibility of criminal charges. The Los Angeles Police Department said Murray was still not considered a suspect.
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.
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 offense of manslaughter," Ed Chernoff, Murray's lawyer, said in a statement posted on his law firm's Web site. 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.
About three dozen officers and agents participated in the raid, with Houston police surrounding the building as the investigators went inside. DEA spokeswoman Violet Szeleczky said about 20 people were in the clinic, including employees.
Szeleczky said the agents were looking for Murray's records, not drugs. She declined to say how the search related to Jackson's death.
The search of Murray's office hard drive indicates that authorities are looking not just for patient records but also for e-mails either between the doctor and Jackson or orders for prescription drugs, said Harland Braun, a prominent Los Angeles defense attorney who has represented doctors in cases involving the 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."
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.
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.