Jackson Investigation Gets Seriouser and Seriouser

Ok, true confessions. I’m a murder junkie. In particular, an LA County murder junkie. I thought the Manson Family murders were the most fascinating story ever – I read Helter Skelter when it came out in 1974. I was 13. I still take out that well-loved copy of Helter Skelter for a good read once in awhile and remember thinking DA Vincent Bugliosi was just the grooviest.

And that was just the beginning of a lifelong fascination with death and its aftermath in the surreal glow of LA. So lovely. So deadly.

OJ. Phil Spector. Robert Blake. The Menendez Brothers.

So I have to ask myself why anyone is surprised that there’s a serious investigation into Michael Jackson’s death. Yes. He was odd. Yes. He appears to have had a serious drug habit. But he was also only a 50-year old man who had more drugs than Pfizer sitting around the house, all of which had to be prescribed by someone. He used multiple aliases to obtain sufficient medication to get a small country buzzed.

What that means to a prosecutor is that there may be culpability in the death of the singer. And what that means to Steve Cooley, LA’s long serving DA, is that he needs to prosecute a crime if it’s been committed. His predecessor, Gil Garcetti, lost the OJ trial, opening the door for Cooley, who’s shown an ability to avoid the minefields of celebrity prosecution.

Earlier today, Dr. Conrad Murray’s Houston offices were searched by members of the DEA, LA County Robbery-Homicide Division and local officers. A computer hard drive was confiscated, among other things. Murray’s lawyer, Edward Chernoff, issued a statement saying they were looking for evidence of manslaughter. http://www.tmz.com/2009/07/22/manslaughter-mentioned-in-dr-murray-warrant/ Later in the day, he said Murray should not face any criminal prosecution.

That might be wishful thinking on Chernoff’s part. His client seems to have been a key player in Michael Jackson’s private drug trafficking cartel. And, he was the person with him last when it seems Jackson may have taken a hugely powerful anesthetic that is not to be used outside of a hospital setting. I have no idea if that can be considered a deadly weapon, but if I’m Cooley, I’m sure thinking through the possibility. With the DEA in tow, I’m also thinking about interstate trafficking of drugs and I’m talking to my former prosecutor, Tom O’Brien, now in charge of the LA US Attorney’s Office.

Cooley is slow and methodical. He is not flashy but gets the job done. He got a grand jury to indict Phil Spector for first-degree murder, and then convicted him of second-degree murder on the theory that Spector’s behavior was so dangerous it was likely to cause Lana Clarkson’s death. Not that he intended for her to die. The judge, a few say in error, also instructed the Spector jury on involuntary manslaughter, and they went with the more culpable charge.

California law enforcement has also developed a taste for white-collar drug abuse in the wake of Anna Nicole Smith’s death surrounded by her own painkiller trove. Though Attorney General Jerry Brown announced the filing of felony counts against Smith’s former companion and two doctors, it is Cooley’s office who’s handling the case.

I have no idea if Chernoff hopes to be the next Johnnie Cochran, who absolutely ran circles around the LA County DA’s office. But I do suspect he may get his chance.

You can take a look at his bio here http://www.houstoncriminallaw.com/CM/Attorneys/Edward-M-Chernoff.html His son is named Fate. He runs the Houston marathon each year, though running bores him. And during his years as a prosecutor, he lost just one of 40 felony trials.

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