Just How Many Drugs Was Michael Jackson On?

By Jennifer Matesa 10/07/11

Dr. Conrad Murray's trial heats up as his attorney attacks an LA coroner for ineptly documenting Jackson's dizzying array of drugs.

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It was more than two. Photo via

On a day when no fewer than three dozen drug bottles were produced as evidence, a defense attorney in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson’s private doctor, Conrad Murray, yesterday accused a coroner’s investigator of conducting slipshod evidence-collection and examination of the bedroom where the singer died in July 2009. In the most aggressive challenge to the prosecution since the LA-based trial began on Sept. 27, defense attorney Ed Chernoff grilled investigator Elissa Fleak about her handling of several pieces of evidence, her photography of the scene, and her documentation of her observations. Chernoff pointed out that Fleak’s photos showed a bottle of flumenazil—a drug used to reverse the sedative effects of benzodiazepines—on Jackson’s nightstand, but Fleak’s notes indicated she’d found it on the floor. Another benzo, lorazepam—also known as Ativan—was later determined to have been in Jackson’s body at the time of his death. Murray could possibly have tried to administer the flumenazil as an antidote to his patient's coma, hence its importance. Chernoff also accused Fleak of failing to document finding a bottle of propofol stashed inside an IV bag until almost two years after Jackson died—propofol is a powerful sedative hypnotic normally used only in surgery, which prosecutors claim killed the King of Pop. Chernoff suggested Fleak changed her notes to make them match the testimony of one of Jackson’s security guards—who said Conrad Murray told him to put the propofol bottle inside the IV bag and stick the bag in a closet. Fleak denied Chernoff’s charge that she’d made “a substantial amount of mistakes” in her investigation, retorting that no criminal investigation is error-free. In her testimony yesterday, Fleak cataloged the medications she’d found in Jackson’s bedroom and closet. Prosecutors displayed more than three dozen drug bottles logged into evidence on a table in front of the jury. The prosecution asserts Jackson died of acute intoxication from propofol in combination with other sedatives administered by Dr. Murray. The doctor, who shuttered his practice to accompany Jackson on what was to be his last tour, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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Jennifer Matesa is a Voice Award Fellow at the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and is the author of the blog Guinevere Gets Sober. She is the author of several books, including the non-fiction, The Recovering Body, about physical and spiritual fitness for living clean and sober. You can find Jennifer on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.