King Of Pop’s Death: How Did Michael Jackson Die Really?

On June 25, 2009, the most-awarded musician in history was found dead in his Los Angeles home. Michael Jackson’s death at the age of 50 came as a major shock to fans around the world. The singer, who had been preparing his “This Is It” series of comeback concerts, was due to begin his tour in London the next month. His death was covered so extensively by news outlets that some prominent figures complained that it distracted from other pressing global issues.

What Happened on June 25, 2009?

Constru-centro, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

On June 25, Jackson’s personal physician, Conrad Murray, found him unconscious two minutes after administering medications to help him sleep. He said that the singer was no longer breathing and his pulse was weak. 

At about 10:42 a.m., he began to administer CPR while security dialed emergency services. He continued to attempt to revive Jackson for about ten minutes. The musician received further treatment from paramedics at his home for another 42 minutes. 

He was then transferred to the hospital at about 1:14 p.m., where medical professionals continued resuscitation efforts for over an hour. Despite these attempts, Jackson was pronounced dead at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center at 2:26 p.m.

Jackson’s Health

Alan Light, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Conflicting reports of the singer’s health up to the time of his death have been released. Several biographers stated that he had been in poor health in his final months, suffering from insomnia, lupus, vitiligo, and low body weight; they also said that his family was worried about his health and had urged him to seek medical care. 

One biographer mentioned that Jackson had struggled with addiction to prescription pain medication in the past, a statement that was confirmed by his dermatologist. However, one medical professional said that he saw the musician several days before his death and that, at that time, the singer seemed to be mentally and physically robust. 

Members of his stage crew, who had seen him the day before his death at a rehearsal, said that he seemed healthy and full of energy at the time. The rehearsals went past midnight, after which Jackson spent some time with fans outside his home. It was only late into the night that he began complaining of insomnia. 

In the early hours of the morning of June 25, the singer contacted Dr. Murray, who gave him a cocktail of drugs to induce sleep. When numerous injections failed to help Jackson fall asleep, he reportedly asked for propofol more than once. He had used the drug previously as a sleep aid. By 10:40 a.m., he had still not fallen asleep, and Dr. Murray administered propofol diluted with lidocaine. 

The Autopsy 

Jackson’s autopsy revealed a number of red flags to investigators. It became apparent that he had received anti-anxiety benzodiazepines (including midazolam and lorazepam) and propofol. This combination, along with doses of diazepam and Ativan, proved to be lethal. And Dr. Murray had given the singer several drug injections to help him sleep through the night. 

Besides this, Jackson was given a clean bill of health. His heart was strong, with his only serious condition being an irrelevant chronic lung inflammation. He was at a healthy weight, his lungs were healthy, and his arteries were clear from plaque except for a slight accumulation in one leg.

The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner ruled on August 28 that Jackson’s death was a homicide. He had been killed by combined drug intoxication, most significantly propofol and lorazepam. Diazepam, midazolam, ephedrine, and lidocaine also contributed. The complete toxicology report was kept private.

Prosecutors release graphic Michael Jackson autopsy picture

The Trial 

Dr. Murray went to trial on September 27, 2011. He was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter a mere 24 days later. His sentencing was set five days after his conviction. He was kept in custody without bail. 

There were several factors of interest to the jury in delivering their verdict. Dr. Murray testified that he had performed CPR on Jackson after finding him. However, other medical professionals called his technique into question after discovering that he had attempted to resuscitate the singer on his mattress as opposed to a hard surface

Similarly, the doctor had opted to use one hand during the resuscitation efforts, placing the other hand under Jackson’s back. This is in opposition to the standard technique of using two hands to perform CPR, which as a doctor, he should have known; although, one-handed CPR is acceptable when done on children or infants.

Controversially, Dr. Murray also did not call 911. He stated that he did not do so because there was no household landline, and he was unsure of the home’s exact address. Nevertheless, it was later revealed that he had made multiple private cell phone calls within that hour, a fact he had withheld from the investigation.

He also gave up his resuscitation efforts after only ten minutes, but a security guard did not contact 911 until 12:21 p.m. By the time paramedics arrived, Jackson already had no pulse.

Dr. Murray claimed that the musician still had a pulse when he was removed by emergency services. Paramedics refuted this account, stating that the singer was in “full cardiac arrest,” and his status remained unchanged during transport. 

The Aftermath of The Trial

Dr. Conrad was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in November 2011. He was kept away from the general inmate population and described by the sheriff’s office as an exemplary inmate.

He was sentenced to four years in prison but was released after just under two years for good behavior. Prison overcrowding was also a factor in his early release. Joe Jackson, Michael’s father, filed a wrongful death suit against Dr. Murray a year prior but dropped it in 2012. 

Katherine Jackson later unsuccessfully sued AEG Live, Dr. Murray’s and Michael Jackson’s former employer, for wrongful death. The doctor refused to take part in these proceedings. His medical licenses remain suspended and revoked in the three states where he previously practiced medicine. 

The Funeral

Before Jackson’s burial, the family broadcast an honorary service on TV. At least 2.5 billion people around the world tuned in for the live memorial service in Los Angeles. The service was one of the most-watched events in TV history. It was held at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, and 17,500 tickets were distributed via online lottery among more than 1.2 million applicants. 

Many celebrity guests attended his funeral. Notable figures included Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Mariah Carrey, and Jermaine Jackson. These four performed a number of Jackson’s hit songs. Each of the King of Pop’s brothers also wore a single, white, sparkling glove in his honor.

During the service, Jackson’s daughter, Paris, then 11 years old, broke down as she addressed the crowd. Marlon Jackson famously said, “Maybe now, Michael, they will leave you alone.”

Jackson was buried in a solid-bronze casket reportedly valued at $25,000. The funeral reportedly cost $1 million, over half of which funded the singer’s crypt. The legendary performer was laid to rest in the Holly Terrace section in the Great Mausoleum of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, located in Glendale, California. His crypt is still maintained by private security and is inaccessible except for limited circumstances.

Michael Jackson's Memorial Service | Full Version (4K)

Jackson’s Legacy

Despite his early death, the King of Pop remains one of the most highly-awarded singers in history. His influence on the development of modern pop-rock is incalculable and unmatched.

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