12.27.09

Source: Jackson Doc Won't Face Murder

Prosecutors have decided they won’t pursue second-degree murder charges against Conrad Murray for Michael Jackson's death, reports Gerald Posner, and will instead seek a manslaughter indictment.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s team probing the death of Michael Jackson has decided not to pursue murder charges against the singer’s doctor when it presents its case to a grand jury early next year, a source familiar with the investigation tells The Daily Beast.

Instead, the source says, the DA will likely ask for a manslaughter indictment against Conrad Murray, Jackson’s in-house physician when he died. In cases like this in California, it is ultimately up to the grand jury to decide what the final charges are, but in the large majority of cases, they defer to the prosecutor’s request.

What had seemed like a straightforward case has proven more difficult than many in the prosecutor’s office initially envisioned.

While the DA officially has no on-the-record comment regarding the ongoing investigation, this source adds that what had seemed like a straightforward case has proven more difficult than many in the prosecutor’s office initially envisioned. Charges are now expected, he says, in February “at the earliest” and “possibly even a few months more.” One informal deadline is to try and have the criminal case officially under way—a preliminary hearing on the charges—before the first anniversary of Jackson’s death in June.

In the immediate aftermath of Jackson’s June death, the coroner ruled a homicide from “acute propofol intoxication. According to leaked affidavits, Murray reportedly admitted to police that he administered propofol, a powerful anesthesia, to Jackson only hours before the pop star’s death. But the medical data under review is so complex, and the toxicology report involves a wide enough mixture of drugs, that the district attorney has had to bring in outside medical experts for what is becoming one of the office’s more expensive probes. The long delay is despite the execution of broad search warrants at Murray’s home and offices in Las Vegas, and storage facilities in Houston.

In trying to make its case to the investigatory grand jury currently impaneled, the district attorney has already subpoenaed Murray’s girlfriend, Nicole Alvarez, the mother of his youngest child, to testify about whether she knew he was ordering propofol.

Diane Dimond: The Feds’ Jackson WhitewashThe Los Angeles District Attorney's Office is accustomed to expensive and lengthy probes when it comes deaths of celebrities. In the 2007 drug overdose death of Anna Nicole Smith, it took over two years before the same office returned conspiracy to furnish drugs charges against her attorney-boyfriend and two doctors. It took the DA a year before it got a murder indictment against music producer Phil Spector in the murder of actress Lana Clarkson. “In high-profile cases,” says the source familiar with the investigation, “everyone would rather proceed very slowly and make certain that any charges brought are solid.”

For his part, Murray has kept a low profile. In November, he appeared in a Las Vegas court to answer charges that he was behind on child support for another child, but settled the case with the mother just before the proceedings were to begin. At Thanksgiving, he reopened his medical clinic in Houston, where he tends mostly to people who otherwise could not afford medical care. At the two churches at which he’s a regular, Murray was greeted with effusive and emotional support from parishioners and patients who had known him for years.

The Houston reopening and reception has gone so well that one person on Murray’s defense team tells me that he might reopen his Las Vegas medical practice early in the new year. Murray, who had been without any income since Jackson’s death—and still hasn’t been paid by concert promoter AEG for his medical services to the pop star—needs the money to pay bills, and also help cover what is expected to be a very expensive defense. When asked for comment about the apparent decision not to pursue murder charges, Miranda Sevcik, whose Media Masters handles press inquires for Murray, said, “I can reiterate what we have said all along: ‘Dr. Murray neither prescribed or administered anything that should have killed Michael Jackson.’”

Gerald Posner is The Daily Beast's chief investigative reporter. He's the award-winning author of 10 investigative nonfiction bestsellers, on topics ranging from political assassinations, to Nazi war criminals, to 9/11, to terrorism. His latest book, Miami Babylon: Crime, Wealth and Power—A Dispatch from the Beach, was published in October. He lives in Miami Beach with his wife, the author Trisha Posner.