Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Trial of Conrad Murray

The King of Pop is Dead

To an outsider, it seemed like Michael Jackson was once again on top of the world. Although he had long been a fixture in the tabloids and his long-standing financial problems were well known, Jackson's "This is It" comeback tour in London seemed perfectly set up to put the King of Pop back in the public eye for all of the right reasons — and earn him millions of dollars for the 50 sold-out concerts.

A June 24, 2009 rehearsal went well by all accounts, Jackson was energetic and focused. As his security team dropped him off at his rented mansion in the Hollywood Hills, Jackson seemed happy and healthy. However, at roughly noon on June 25, 2009, Jackson stopped breathing. A security guard called 911. Paramedics were on the scene in minutes and tried desperately to revive Jackson. Eventually, he was transported via ambulance to UCLA Medical Center, where further life-saving efforts proved fruitless. His personal doctor, Conrad Murray, had been with Jackson all night — treating the singer's insomnia with a combination of drugs that police would conclude caused his tragic death.

Who is Conrad Murray?

Conrad Murray sits at the defense table
Conrad Murray sits at the defense table

Conrad Murray, a cardiologist with clinics in Las Vegas and Houston, ran a successful practice and was very popular with his patients. Outside of work, his actions were a little more suspect — although he was married, he visited strip clubs, carried on affairs, and fathered several out-of-wedlock children.

Since 2006 he served as Michael Jackson's personal physician. He met Jackson when the singer was living in Vegas with his three children, Prince, Paris, and Blanket, and the entire family came down with a respiratory virus. A member of Jackson's security team was a patient of Murray's and referred him to the singer. Murray and Jackson hit it off, and Murray continued to treat Jackson over the ensuing years.

When Jackson signed on with the entertainment company AEG to do the long concert series in London, Jackson asked that Murray be brought on as his personal doctor for the tour. After some negotiation, Murray agreed to close his practice and take Jackson on as his sole patient — for the sum of $150,000 per month. Sadly for Murray, the contract had not been signed by all parties at the time of Jackson's death. Murray, who had been living in Los Angeles and treating Michael Jackson since April 2009, never got paid.

Murray is Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter

The court views a projection of Jackson's body on a gurney
The court views a projection of Jackson's body on
a gurney

Jackson's death was suspicious from the beginning — he was a fantastically wealthy and relatively healthy 50-year-old man. How he died so suddenly while under the care of a personal physician was a mystery. The coroner concluded that Jackson died from an overdose of propofol — a powerful anesthetic used in hospitals to sedate patients for surgery. This was not a drug that could be procured by the average person via prescription — it was only available to medical personnel.

When police sat down to speak with Conrad Murray two days after Jackson's death, the personal physician admitted that he had given Jackson propofol to help with the singer's insomnia. When the investigators found that Murray had ordered an incredible amount of propofol (over four gallons altogether) while caring for Jackson, and that Jackson had traces of two other sedatives in his blood stream, prosecutors deemed that Murray's gross negligence was a direct cause of Jackson's death. But because Murray had not intentionally caused the singer's death, he was not charged with murder. Instead he was charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter — a crime that could put the doctor behind bars for up to four years. And if convicted, he would surely lose his medical license and his livelihood.

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