It’s been more than a decade since we lost Michael Jackson, also known as the King of Pop. In that time, the world has had to navigate the complicated legacy left behind by the iconic performer. But Jackson’s death left the singer’s family, fans, and critics with more than grief. They also had to grapple with more practical questions. When did Michael Jackson die, but more importantly why?
Jackson’s audience would soon learn about the trusted doctor who failed the singer, with startling abuses revealed in the ensuing lawsuit. As Jackson’s listeners knew, the singer courted controversy throughout his life. That reputation hardly changed after Michael Jackson’s death.
Struggles With Health and Addiction
Jackson’s death was shocking, but the singer’s health was a major issue throughout his career. In a notorious accident on the set of a Pepsi commercial in 1984, Jackson sustained severe scalp burns. Doctors prescribed the singer painkillers to aid in his recovery. Tragically, Jackson would later become dependent on them during periods of high stress, like his 1993 court case for child sexual abuse allegations.
Despite the physicality of his concerts—Jackson was a highly skilled dancer and performer—he appeared frail. Even worse, shows were frequently cancelled due to his illnesses and struggles with addiction throughout the late 80s and early 90s. From viral infections to swollen vocal cords, migraines to lumbar and tooth problems, Jackson’s doctors and insurers worked overtime during the tours for Bad and Dangerous. He continued to suffer from various health problems in the years that followed, with time spent in the hospital in 2005.
As mentioned earlier, Jackson struggled with painkiller addiction. In 1993, he finally went public with his problem. He attributed his substance abuse to pain following a recent reconstructive scalp surgery. In November of that year, he left the US to seek treatment, eventually returning toward the end of the year.
Death of a Star
In June of 2009, Jackson lived in Los Angeles, preparing and rehearsing for something of a comeback tour. He finished rehearsal in the early hours of June 25 and retired to his room. The next morning, when the singer didn’t emerge from his room, his physician Conrad Murray entered the room. Once inside, he found Jackson unresponsive, but still alive. He attempted to perform CPR and call 9-1-1, but had trouble as he didn’t know the address of the building. Eventually, security called 9-1-1. Paramedics worked on Jackson in his room for 42 minutes before transferring him to an ambulance.
Differing accounts of this period exist. While Murray insisted that Jackson had a pulse when he was put in the ambulance, the Los Angeles Fire Department claimed otherwise. Doctors and nurses at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center worked for more than an hour to revive Jackson. In the end, they pronounced him dead at 2:26 pm on June 25, 2009.
What Did Michael Jackson’s Autopsy Reveal?
A little over two months after the singer’s death, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office revealed the autopsy results. It turned out that despite Jackson’s previous health problems, he was in remarkably good health at the time of his death. Rather, a cocktail of drugs caused the singer’s death. Most of the blame fell to the combination of propofol, an anesthetic, and lorazepam, used to treat anxiety. The coroner also found other drugs in Jackson’s bloodstream, though in lower doses, including diazepam (another drug used to treat anxiety), ephedrine (a stimulant), and midazolam and lidocaine (other anesthetics).
Who Killed Michael Jackson?
As a result, the investigator for the coroner’s office declared the death a homicide. While Jackson was not stabbed or shot, the specific combination of drugs in his system guaranteed that blame fell solely at the feet of one man. The man who caused Jackson’s death was the singer’s own physician and the man who discovered his lifeless body, Conrad Murray.
A cardiologist by trade, Murray only worked with Jackson for a relatively short time. He came on board in May 2009, as part of the preparation for Jackson’s upcoming tour. While the Los Angeles Police Department completed lengthy interviews with Murray following Jackson’s death, he wasn’t immediately the one under scrutiny. Soon, that would change.
Following searches of his Houston office and storage unit, an anonymous tip stated that Murray gave Jackson propofol. Police finally arrested Murray the following year, on February 8, 2010.
The courts decided that the doctor would be charged with involuntary manslaughter. The jury eventually found Murray guilty after a trial that lasted just under two months in the autumn of 2011.
Following the announcement of the sentence, Jackson’s father Joseph said just one word to reporters: “Justice.”