Federal agents and detectives swooped on the offices of Michael Jackson's doctor, as lawyers for the physician revealed police are treating the star's death as possible manslaughter.
A spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) confirmed that a search with the Los Angeles police took place at the offices of the Armstrong medical clinic in Houston, Texas, where doctor Conrad Murray practices.
Murray has emerged as the central figure in the mystery surrounding Jackson's death in Los Angeles on June 25 and was the last person to have seen the pop star alive at his mansion.
The official coroner's report into the 50-year-old singer's demise has deferred the cause of death amid speculation that powerful prescription drugs he was believed to be taking may have been to blame.
Suspicion has also focused on a dangerous sedative -- propofol, known by the trade name Diprivan -- used to induce unconsciousness in hospital patients ahead of major surgery. Reports say it was also found at Jackson's home.
Television reports showed several law enforcement agents entering Murray's Houston offices in a dramatic new twist to the four-week-old investigation.
Murray's lawyer Ed Chernoff confirmed in a statement that the search warrant served by investigators had been seeking evidence of manslaughter.
"We can confirm that a search warrant was executed today on Dr. Murray's offices in Houston, Texas," Chernoff said.
"The search warrant authorized law enforcement to search for and seize items, including documents, they believed constituted evidence of the offense of manslaughter."
The wording of the warrant provided the clearest indication yet that authorities were viewing Jackson's death as a criminal matter.
Los Angeles police had previously refused to rule out homicide in the case but had shied away from making any formal announcement that the pop icon's death could lead to criminal charges.
In a statement issued by Murray's lawyers late Tuesday, Chernoff said the doctor was anxious to assist authorities in their investigation and that a third meeting with police was to be scheduled after two earlier interviews.
"The coroner wants to clear up the cause of death, we share that goal," Chernoff said. "We don't have access to the most important information in this case... the toxicology report. We're still in the dark like everybody else."
Murray is currently in Las Vegas, his legal team said, and Chernoff insisted that "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.
"Dr. Murray was the last doctor standing when Michael Jackson died and it seems all the fury is directed toward him," Chernoff said.
"Dr. Murray is frustrated by negative and often erroneous media reports, he has to walk around 24-7 with a bodyguard. He can't operate his practice."
In the immediate aftermath of Jackson's death, friends of the singer's family said the clan was unhappy with "unanswered questions" surrounding Murray.
"They (the family) are suspicious of this doctor and they have real reason to be because any other doctor would say 'Here's what happened in the last hour of his life and I was there. I gave him some medicine,'" family friend and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson said.
"(Murray) owes it to the family and to the public to say, 'These were the last hours of Michael's life and here's what happened.' That's a reasonable expectation."
Later Wednesday, an official from the Los Angeles Coroner's office visited the Los Angeles office of Jackson's former nurse Cherilyn Lee to obtain some of the singer's medical records.
Lee said in interviews after Jackson's death that the singer had repeatedly pleaded with her to obtain Diprivan for him but she had refused.
Meanwhile controversy over the star's death continued as the Los Angeles Times reported police have been forced to investigate "improper views of the pop star's death certificate" and other sensitive data relating to the case.
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