Michael Jackson's death is being treated as homicide by the Los Angeles County coroner, making it almost inevitable that the late singer's personal doctor will now face criminal charges in relation to his death.
Dr Conrad Murray, the private physician from Las Vegas who was with Jackson on the day that he suffered a fatal cardiac arrest, is likely to stand trial for manslaughter after it emerged that he has admitted injecting him with a "cocktail" of sedatives and painkillers.
The sensational prospect comes after court documents unsealed yesterday reveal that, in just 12 hours before the 50-year-old singer's death in June, Dr Murray administered powerful doses of at least four drugs: propofol, valium, lorazepam and midazolam. Dr Murray has told detectives that Jackson demanded the medications to combat insomnia, which had been blighting his attempt to rehearse for an unlikely series of lucrative comeback concerts, which was due to commence at the O2 Arena in London last month.
All four of the drugs can be dangerous in large doses, and should never usually be mixed. As a result, sources in the coroner's office told the Associated Press that Dr Murray's actions amount to criminal negligence, which will lead to an involuntary manslaughter charge. The case against Dr Murray will see him accused of acting as an "enabler" for the star, who had a longstanding addiction to prescription drugs.
His private practice in Las Vegas was suffering from financial difficulties, and he had quit after being offered a lucrative deal to accompany Jackson to London. Like many doctors in the US medical system, he stood to make commission for each drug he administered.
During interviews with the LAPD which were unsealed as part of a warrant application unsealed in Houston yesterday, Dr Murray said he had been treating Jackson for insomnia for about six weeks, giving him 50 milligrams of propofol each night using an intravenous line.
Dr Murray said Jackson was "very familiar" with propofol and referred to it as his "milk" because of its appearance. Worried that the singer was developing an addiction to the drug, Dr Murray said he lowered the dosage in mid-June, and began mixing it with lorazepam, midazolam, and other sedatives.
On June 25, the day of the singer's cardiac arrest, he gave Jackson valium at 1.30am. When that did not work, he injected lorazepam, at 2am, then midazolam at 3am. Over the next few hours, Dr Murray decided to throw "various" drugs at the problem of his patient's insomnia, before trying propofol, at 10.40am.
Three hours later, Jackson was dead. Though Dr Murray told police he had purchased the propofol legally, investigators can find no evidence that he bought the drug under either his medical licence or Drug Enforcement Administration tracking number.
In an affidavit seeking permission to search Dr Murray's offices, Houston police officer E G Chance said law-enforcement agents had gathered "items constituting evidence of the offense of manslaughter that tend to show that Dr Conrad Murray committed the said criminal offence".
Dr Murray's attorney, Ed Chernoff, did not comment on the revelations yesterday.