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Michael Jackson's Death Officially Ruled a Homicide; Celebrating the Life of Senator Ted Kennedy

Aired August 28, 2009 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: Michael Jackson's death is ruled a homicide. The Los Angeles County coroner has just released official findings about the powerful drugs that killed the pop star. Stand by.

Also this hour, the alleged abductors face charges in a bizarre child kidnapping case. We're learning right now more about a woman's 18-year ordeal. Police say she's been living in her captors' backyard.

And mourning for Ted Kennedy's death gives way to a celebration of his life. We're counting down to the music and the memories later tonight.

And we're getting new information about moves to replace him in the United States Senate.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But we begin with the breaking news we're following this hour, an explosive new development in the Michael Jackson investigation. The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office has ruled that the singer's death was a homicide.

Let's go straight to CNN's Randi Kaye. She's been following this story from day one.

Randi, what specifically is in this report?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, let me first say that these are the findings. This is not the final report. That is still on a security hold by the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles District -- District Attorney's Office.

But I can tell you, as you just mentioned there, that the manner of death has been officially ruled a homicide by the coroner's office. And the cause of death, in terms of that, they found that he died from acute propofol intoxication. That is that very powerful sedative that his personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, who was at the home that day when he died, thought that he had become addicted to, that he was -- he was losing sleep. He was having trouble sleeping. He was trying to wean him off it, apparently, he told authorities, for about six weeks.

And then he said that Michael Jackson had begged him for it and that he had given him 25 milligrams at about 10:40 in the morning on the day that he died. And that really plays into the timeline of drugs. We know that at 1:30 in the morning he was given 10 milligrams of Valium, 2:00 a.m., the anti-anxiety drug Ativan -- 3:00 a.m., he was given a sedative known as Versed.

Then he got two more doses of both of those, and then, at 10:40 a.m., Wolf, he got that Propofol. Now, the coroner has determined that the drugs Propofol and Lorazepam, which is that Ativan that I just mentioned, were found to be the primary drugs responsible for Michael Jackson's death.

Now, all of the drugs that are in the coroner's findings match up with the drugs that Dr. Conrad Murray had told authorities he had given Michael Jackson in -- in the hours before his death. Other drugs that were detected, Midazolam, which is the Versed that I mentioned. That's used for pre-op sedation. It's a muscle relaxer. They also mentioned Valium was a contributor to his death. That, as we know, is an anti-anxiety drug.

Lidocaine, which is a local anesthetic that actually relieves the burning sensation that can be associated with a dose of Propofol. And also ephedrine was apparently a contributor to his death. That's a stimulant. It's also an appetite suppressant.

We checked with the district attorney's office, Wolf, here in Los Angeles to see if the case had been forwarded to them yet for charges. That's what we're waiting for. They said that they haven't been presented anything yet to consider charges for -- for any of Michael Jackson's doctors.

BLITZER: So, clearly, Dr. Conrad Murray, he's still a free man right now. He hasn't been charged with anything.

KAYE: No. His lawyers still say he's a suspect, not a witness, and they're not commenting right now.

BLITZER: Are they saying anything about any other doctors? Because these are a lot of medications he was taking. Do we suspect that Dr. Murray was giving him all these drugs, or were there other doctors?

Because there's been a lot of speculation about his dermatologist, for example, Dr. Arnie Klein, was perhaps giving him some medication as well. What do we know about that?

KAYE: Well, we know that, in the affidavit that we had gotten earlier in the week, it did say from Dr. Murray that he apparently told authorities that he gave Michael Jackson the drugs that I mentioned in the timeline.

As far as Dr. Klein -- that's his longtime dermatologist -- apparently, when they went to the house after Michael Jackson suffered cardiac arrest, they did find that -- that there was one bottle of a muscle relaxer, a bottle of pills containing muscle relaxers that were -- that had been prescribed by -- by Dr. Klein.

But, again, his lawyers say that those were muscle relaxers; they didn't contribute to his death.

BLITZER: Randi, thanks very much.

I want to get some more insight right now on what this coroner's report is suggesting.

I want to bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, whom -- who himself is not only a neurosurgeon, but also a medical examiner.

What's your immediate reaction, Sanjay, as you look at all these -- this cocktail of drugs he was taking?


Well, you know, I -- I have to tell you, since the -- we started reporting on the story a couple months ago, there have been some -- some aspects of this that have been very, very strange and, frankly, hard to explain.

Wolf, you and I have talked about this several times, but the medication that Randi was mentioning that has been mentioned for some time, Propofol, or Diprivan, frankly, that alone, I had never heard of being administered outside a hospital setting. So, that as a starting point gives you -- sort of sets the scene for all these other medications.

At least one of the other ones also has to be given via intravenous injection. So, these -- these are things that are typically reserved for the hospital setting.

Wolf, I think we have a -- a little bit of a timeline. I know Randi was talking about this a little bit, but it might be worth taking a look at the timeline again of the medications and when they were given. Just take a look at that for a second. Look at it on the screen -- 1:30 a.m., starting with the 10 milligrams of Valium, all the way over the next nine hour, finishing with the 25 milligrams of Propofol.

Any of those medications, Wolf, just to put this in perspective, would -- would make you sleep -- make you sleep, Wolf, for a very long time. In conjunction like that, it's not so much the interactions, as it is the combination.

But, Wolf, one of the things that I think I -- I tried to -- to show your viewers was how Propofol works. And I think we have some video of this. This is a medication that's used in the hospital setting. You use it, and, within a few seconds, it can put someone to sleep, to the point where they're simply not breathing on their own.

And, if you have never had Propofol before, even smaller doses can -- can have this sort of effect. So, this was something that was pretty stunning. I was counting down.

Listen, Wolf.


GUPTA: ... four, three, two, one.

DR. RAPHAEL GERSHON, CHIEF OF ANESTHESIOLOGY, GRADY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: There's a reason for his heart rate increasing.


GUPTA: His eyes are shut there now, and the anesthesiologist realized he's not breathing on his own, and they have to place a breathing tube.

I just wanted to show that, Wolf, to give you an idea of just how powerful these medications are.

BLITZER: Yes, it's -- it's amazing. And the -- the -- he was obviously having a lot of trouble sleeping, because, almost every hour, Dr. Murray was apparently giving him more drugs to try to get him to sleep, until he finally took that Propofol, what, around 10:30 in the morning.

GUPTA: That's right.

BLITZER: And, obviously, that was -- put him to sleep and more.

Stand by for a moment, Sanjay, because Dr. Joshua Perper is joining us right now. He's the medical examiner himself down in Fort Lauderdale, in Broward County, Florida.

You have had a lot of experience taking a look at how a coroner could put together a report like this. What do you think, Dr. Perper?

DR. JOSHUA PERPER, CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: Well, what happened basically in this case, that the toxicology was very clear, and there was a multiplicity of the drugs which resulted in death.

And that's easy to make a determination of the cause of death. It's more difficult to make a determination of the manner of death. Propofol is, indeed, done primarily in the hospital, but it's not an illegal or a -- or a controlled drug. And it's known that some people who have problems with sleeping, sometimes from other drugs, become addicted to Propofol. And those are usually medical personnel, doctors and nurses, and so on.

So, in this particular case, at the time of the trial, there's going to be a very close scrutiny, not just of the toxicology, but under what circumstances was given, and the fact that -- that basically Michael Jackson received the Propofol and -- and asked for Propofol when he was in Germany, according to his dermatologist.

BLITZER: But, Dr. Perper...


(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: ... how do you make the jump from all these respective drugs that he was taking to homicide, and concluding that homicide was responsible for his death, because all of these drugs, presumably, are legal drugs?

PERPER: Well, that's true.

And the only -- the only type of homicide which I understand Dr. Murray would be the -- the primary suspect in those cases can be accused, it's of involuntary manslaughter.

But, by the same token, there will be a lot of questions precisely addressing the issues you mentioned, what were the -- the justification or the reason, and the fact that it was -- those drugs were not given to the patient to use them themselves, but they were given under the control of a physician.

So, it may well be that -- that the jury is not going to be convinced that the degree of recklessness reaches the degree of involuntary manslaughter.

BLITZER: Let me go back to Dr. Gupta for a moment, Sanjay, because I guess, if it's involuntary manslaughter, you have to say that this is a cardiologist, Dr. Conrad Murray, he should have known better than to -- to give Michael Jackson Propofol together with these other drugs, and -- and that it was his negligence, in effect, that resulted in what they're now suggesting is homicide.

Am I understanding that correctly, Sanjay?

GUPTA: I think that's a pretty fair description, Wolf.

Recklessness is another word that I think would -- would be used to describe this. If you think about the broad categories upon which people sort of -- sort of list causes of death, you have accidental. You have natural. You have suicide, homicide, and you have indeterminate.

So, again, if they don't think that -- they -- they know this wasn't natural, given the -- the amount of drugs that were in his system. Was it an accident vs. was it a homicide, that's really sort of what they're trying to determine.

But, I think, Wolf, the way you stated it is probably exactly right. This was -- went beyond sort of medical malpractice, into gross negligence and recklessness.

BLITZER: All right. I want both of you to stand by, because we're going to stay on top of this story, a major development, the coroner in Los Angeles -- in -- in California suggesting homicide responsible for the death of Michael Jackson.

Guys, thanks very much.

I want to move to another important story we're following right now, America's farewell to Senator Edward Kennedy. Thousands of people have been filing past Senator Kennedy's flag- draped coffin over the past two days. Soon, his family will -- and close friends will get together for an opportunity to celebrate his life. We're counting down to that celebration later tonight.

Let's go out to our chief national correspondent, John King. He's over at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum.

John, set the stage for us right now, because, just a little while ago they stopped allowing people going through to pay their respects and to actually see the coffin.


And we are waiting now for tonight's invitation-only event, which essentially will be a celebration of Senator Kennedy's life, with close friends and family members taking time to speak over the course of two hours.

Let me look back, though, at the extraordinary events of the last two days. Between 45,000 and 50,000 people, the Kennedy family tells us, came to pay respects to Senator Kennedy during the public opening here. They lined up here on the grounds of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library for two days, coming early in the morning, staying last night until 2:00 a.m., more back as early as 5:00 a.m. this morning, nearly 50,000 people coming to say farewell to the man who served Massachusetts in the Senate for 47 years.

And, obviously, the youngest brother of the Kennedy brothers the country saw grow through the 1960s, two of them killed by assassin's bullet. And, so, the public has had its chance. Now the remaining events will -- for invitation only.

At the celebration tonight, family members will speak, including Caroline Kennedy. Colleagues from the Senate will speak, including some Republicans, Orrin Hatch and John McCain. Perhaps his closest friend in the Senate, Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, and the vice president speak tonight.

And the final event here in Massachusetts, the funeral mass in the morning, where some family members with will speak, and the president, Barack Obama, will give the final eulogy. And then it's back to Washington, D.C., to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're going to have coverage of all of this every step of the way.

John, are you getting any indications right now -- you're up in Boston -- about who might want to take that seat that Senator Kennedy had?

KING: Well, there are a number of Massachusetts Democrats and a few Republicans who we know have been making phone calls quietly, because of the sensitivity of this, but making phone calls in the past few months as Senator Kennedy's condition deteriorated.

What is most fascinating is that there's a growing sentiment here -- a number of conversations today with people plugged into Massachusetts politics. Forty-eight hours ago, people said it was 50/50 that the legislature would pass a law changing the circumstances of succession. If they pass a new law, you would have an interim senator for a period of three or four months, then the special election, which the secretary of state now wants to have in January.

We are told now that many believe that new change is likely to pass. And, Wolf, here's an interesting twist in how it has played out. Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Senator Kennedy, has called some key members of the legislature, I am told, over the past several days, mostly to thank them for all the support from the state and to invite them to the funeral.

But she's spoken to the president of the Senate, who was originally reluctant to bring this bill forward, and some other lawmakers who originally thought perhaps passing this new change would be too extraordinary a step to take.

And, after those phone calls, I'm told the sentiment has changed and the legislature is now moving toward holding hearings as soon as it comes back into session. And they believe -- most political sources here now believe it is likely they will pass that law allowing an interim senator for three or four months, until the special election takes place.

And that of course would allow the governor, the Democratic governor, to name somebody who could vote on key issues, like the health care debate Senator Kennedy cared so much about.

BLITZER: Well, it begs the question, John, has Vicki Kennedy, the widow, has she changed her mind? Is she increasingly a little bit more open now to the possibility of taking her husband's seat?

KING: I checked back on this one today, Wolf, and I was told by several family sources her answer is no to an interim appointment, no to seeking the seat.

But a number of Massachusetts Democrats told me, once she has passed the mourning phase of this, that they expect people very high up, including people to the Senate, to go to her and say if there is an interim seat and you could go for three or four months and cast Teddy's final votes, as they put it, how could you pass up that opportunity?

So, we will continue to watch it, even though, for now, her answer is no.

BLITZER: All right, John is going to be with us throughout today and tomorrow for coverage of all of these activities.

John, stand by.

There's another breaking story we're following right now. CNN has just confirmed a report that North Korean weapons that were destined for Iran have now been seized in the United Arab Emirates. Our Richard Roth is over at the United Nations. He's getting more information on this story. Stand by. We're going to go to him shortly with details.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File."

Jack, lots going on.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Busy day on a Friday.

When it comes to filling Senator Kennedy's leadership shoes in the Senate, it doesn't seem at first glance that there's anybody who can do that.

Politico puts it this way. No other senator possesses the combination of -- quote -- "celebrity, seniority, personal charm, legislative savvy, and ideological zeal that made Kennedy the most effective liberal in a generation" -- unquote.

Those who worked with him called Kennedy irreplaceable. Many have said the senator's presence was sorely missed during the health care debate. Because of his poor health, he was unable to spend a lot of time on Capitol Hill the last few months.

Although Kennedy was a staunch liberal, he was known for being able to compromise with Republicans. And that's a skill, in case you hadn't noticed, that's pretty much absent on both sides of the aisle these days.

Perhaps the only senator who had similar star power was Hillary Clinton. Before she became President Obama's secretary of state, some aides had hoped that she would assume a Kennedy-like role in the Senate. Not to be.

That's not to say there aren't a lot of senators who would like to assume Kennedy's role. They include people like John Kerry, Chris Dodd, Tom Harkin, Dick Durbin, Russ Feingold.

In the end, though, the party may not be able to find a single figure with the personality and clout and popularity to replace Ted Kennedy. Kind of sad, really. The greatest deliberative body in the world, home to the likes of Hubert Humphrey, Everett Dirksen, has become little more than a partisan snake pit, where not a whole lot worthwhile gets done anymore.

Here's the question. Who is likely to assume Ted Kennedy's leadership role in the Senate?

You can go to Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a great question, and no simple answer, as you point out.

CAFFERTY: Maybe nobody.

BLITZER: May -- you may -- you might be right.

All right, Jack, thank you.

An arraignment in California this hour in a rather bizarre child kidnapping case. The victim, now grown, endured an 18-year nightmare, isolated from the world in her alleged captors' backyard. We have new details coming in.

And the story gets even stranger. We're -- we're learning more about one of the suspect's online rants and theories.

Plus, we're finding out how far New Jersey officials will go to try to prevent the Libya leader, Moammar Gadhafi, from pitching a tent and move -- moving in for a while.


BLITZER: There's also breaking news in California. A registered sex offender and his wife just were charged with 28 -- 28 felony counts. They're accused of kidnapping an 11-year-old girl back in 1991 and abusing her for 18 years.

Two days after Jaycee Lee Dugard was finally found, we're getting a horrifying picture of the life she's led all these years.

CNN's Dan Simon is joining us on the phone. He's been watching this story.

All right, Dan, what has just happened?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the arraignment in El Dorado County is about to get under way, has not started yet, but everybody is going to be there in the courtroom shortly.

But we can tell you that the district attorney there, Vern -- Vern Pierson , just announcing 28 felony counts against Phillip and Nancy Garrido, those charges including kidnapping for sexual purposes and forcible rape, obviously, so many charges here. And the maximum penalty for both of these suspects is life in prison.

Now, the other thing we're looking at today, Wolf -- and this was a very candid admission, I must say, from the sheriff in Costa County, California -- Costa County, that is the area where the victim and the suspects lived -- and what that sheriff had to say is basically that he missed the boat.

He's saying that there was a 911 call in November 2006. A woman called, basically saying that things looked strange, that children were living in the backyard, and -- and things just didn't add up. He says -- this is the sheriff. He's saying that -- that authorities actually came to the house. They made contact made contact with the couple.

They requested -- or, rather, they did not request to enter the house or go to the backyard. And the sheriff is saying -- quote -- "That just is not acceptable."

And, of course, Wolf, so many questions about why authorities did not discover this sooner. And, here, you have a sheriff saying that -- that it really should have been, that they missed an opportunity to bring this case to light sooner.

The final thing we want to talk to you about is the suspect's father. The suspect is Phillip Garrido. I spoke to his dad a short time ago. His name is Manuel Garrido. And I asked him what he thought about this case.

Obviously, is -- he's heartbroken, to say the very least. And -- and he said that: Look, I -- I haven't talked to my son in 20 years.

He says they weren't close. He said his son got involved with drugs and -- and basically suffered from mental illness. He said, when his -- when his son was young, he was a good boy, but -- but got involved with drugs, and -- and just this whole thing is tragic.

And, obviously, that it is. So, we're looking at a lot of different elements to this case, Wolf. We're following it very closely, and this arraignment about to be under way in El Dorado County.

BLITZER: And there's cameras in that courtroom. And we will show our viewers the arraignment once that tape comes in.

Dan, stand by. We will come back to you.

I want to bring in our senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin. He's been watching what arguably might be the most bizarre case I have seen in a long time.

But correct me if I'm wrong.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: No. You are correct. No, this is...

BLITZER: Twenty-eight felony counts.

TOOBIN: ... very bizarre.

There -- there are really two issues that will be evolving over the next few hours and days. The first is obviously the criminal case against the Garridos. The main thing that will be done at the arraignment today will be the question of bail. Here's a prediction: They're not getting out on bail.

But that will certainly be something that the judge has to do. So, the criminal case against the Garridos will go forward. The other big issue is the point Dan was starting to address, which was, how did the authorities not find this -- this poor woman for all these years?

Did they ignore hints? Did they perform adequately? That's going to be operating on a parallel track. But both of them are obviously very important.

BLITZER: And he was a registered sex offender. He had served time in prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. And -- and he was convicted of rape, in addition to all of that.

TOOBIN: The whole reason we have laws about registered sex offenders is so that we can keep track of them and put them under scrutiny, so they don't commit the same kind of crime again.

Here, at least the allegation is, not only did he do it again; he did it for 17 years, virtually in broad -- in public. So, I think the authorities are going to have to answer some very hard questions about whether they were asleep at the switch.

BLITZER: Once we get the tape, and we see the arraignment, we will continue this conversation.

TOOBIN: We will learn more.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jeff.

It appears that this man, Phillip Garrido, posted rambling statements online about so-called special powers he believed he had.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has been looking into these ramblings.

What has he been saying, Abbi, online?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, on this blog, it looks like Phillip Garrido was trying to convince the outside world that he had special powers given to him by God.

Now that the outside world has discovered this Web site, they have been using it to flood it with angry comments, calling him a sick man, and a lot worse. The blogs are called "Voices Revealed."

He also had a Web site registered to him, "God's Desire." And there's no mention of what police say was going on in his backyard for all those years, instead, these two or three years of claims that he could control sound with his mind, that he had developed a device for others to witness what he was able to do given to him by God.

And then you have pages and pages of these documents that swear that all of this is true, signed, it appears, by local members of the community, local business owners, saying that, I have witnessed this demonstration, that this man is mentally competent, he is a -- has a steady personality, he's not the type to hear voices.

The thing is, all those signatures that appear there from members of the local community, those people today say, those are not our signatures. We never had more than minimal contact with this man -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you. Once again, we're waiting for the tape to come in of this arraignment that's about to begin in California. We will get that tape on the air as soon as we get to -- get it.

Meanwhile, the tea bag protesters are hitting the road.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This government needs to get back to doing what it should be doing and stop with going down all these side roads and ridiculousness. I mean, $9 trillion deficit, dear God. You know, I -- you know, who can even envision that many numbers?


BLITZER: What opponents of big government are doing to make their case.

And it's been one of the defining aspects of the Kennedy family, a look at the role of Senator Ted Kennedy's religious faith in his life and work.


BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Fred, what's going on?


An American service member was killed in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan today. That makes August the deadliest month for the U.S. military since the war began back in 2001. There have been 46 U.S. military deaths this month, one more than July's total of 45.

And the mayor of Englewood, New Jersey, is going to court to try to block Libya leader Moammar Gadhafi from staying in his city. Gadhafi is planning to stay at an Englewood mansion owned by Libya during his trip to address the United Nations next month.

But Mayor Michael Wildes says he's asking a court to block construction work on the mansion because of building code violations.

And firefighters are battling wildfires that have burned thousands of acres and are threatening homes in parts of Central and Southern California. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles and Monterey Counties. The fires forced between 1,200 and 1,500 residents to evacuate their homes -- thankfully, no reports of injuries.

And General Motors expects to see a jump in its U.S. auto sales next year. GM's vice president says his company is projecting U.S. sales of 10.5 million vehicles for this year and an increase to 12.5 million in 2010, as consumer confidence improves. GM is crediting the cash for clunkers program with boosting sales of the America automakers, at least the smaller cars -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Fred, thank you.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: an 18-year-old mystery solved. A woman who was abducted when she was 11 years old and forced to live in a backyard is found, and the couple who kidnapped her now facing this hour multiple criminal charges. We're getting the videotape of the arraignment that's about to happen.

Senator Ted Kennedy's Catholicism -- we will look at how his religious faith impacted his life. Stand by for that.

And the Pentagon profiling journalists -- why did it hire a private firm to size up news reports from the war zone?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, family and close friends of Senator Ted Kennedy will share stories, listen to music, and remember his love of them and his love of life. We will carry that celebration live.

It all begins at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Stand by for that.

The more formal funeral mass happens tomorrow morning. We're learning more about the remarks of the headline speaker tomorrow morning. That would be the president of the United States.

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is joining us now from Martha's Vineyard, where the president has been vacationing with his family.

What are you picking up, Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, as you pointed out, the president vacationing here.