The Secret Life of Michael Jackson
The inside story of the superstar and developments with his physician
In a curious turn of events Friday in Los Angeles, Dr. Conrad Murray surrendered to police. But he has not yet been officially charged in Jackson’s death. What killed Michael Jackson? Who’s responsible? And what role was played by his personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray? Prosecutors here in Los Angeles charged Murray with involuntary manslaughter. He says he’s innocent.Dateline has traveled the world, retracing Michael Jackson’s footsteps to uncover the mysteries of the last years of his life, and uncovering evidence that may hold the key to his death, including a phone message left by Dr. Conrad Murray that final morning of Jackson’s life…a message obtained exclusively by Dateline. It’s significant not just for what Dr. Murray says, but the exact moment when he says it.
Dr. Conrad Murray: This is Doctor Murray, Bob. Hi, How are you? Um, sorry I missed you.
It could be a crucial piece of evidence in the case against Murray. But to understand how this doctor and patient became forever entwined, we have to go back in time.
Claire Hoffman: He felt like the world had kind of turned against him. And he wanted to escape.
It was a time when Michael Jackson was a nomad, simultaneously searching for a new home, and for a fix that would give him even a couple of hours of peace.
J. Randy Taraborrelli: I really believe that Michael Jackson would have paid a million dollars for one good night’s sleep.
It was June 2005. By day Michael Jackson was standing trial in a California courtroom –accused of molesting a 13-year-old cancer survivor. By night, Jackson would go home to Neverland and see his three children – Prince Michael, Paris, and Blanket. But he could not sleep.
J. Randy Taraborrelli: He was having nightmares.
J. Randy Taraborrelli has written what might be the definitive biography of the star. Michael Jackson: the magic, the madness, the whole story.
J. Randy Taraborrelli: He would wake up, you know, screaming. He would be afraid to go to sleep because of the nightmares of– of being incarcerated. He had a huge fear of going to jail.
To say that trial was an ordeal for Jackson is to understate the star’s agony back then.
Tom Mesereau: It took a tremendous amount out of him. And I’m not sure he ever really, totally recovered from it.
Tom Mesereau was Jackson’s defense attorney.
Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline NBC correspondent: During the trial, he was aware of what might happen if he was convicted?
Tom Mesereau: Of course he was. And I would talk to him at three, four in the morning. He couldn’t sleep. He had trouble eating. It took a terrible toll on him.
And to those who saw Jackson’s erratic behavior in court every day, it was clear something else was very wrong.
Josh Mankiewicz: You think he was on something?
J. Randy Taraborrelli: It’s no doubt about it. As the days wore on, and as the testimony—continued, it became very clear to everybody that he was on some serious medication.
There was a time in Michael Jackson’s life when Neverland was not a place for nightmares. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, it was where his fantasies came to life, where friends young and old could gather. Friends like Gotham Chopra, son of celebrity guru Deepak Chopra.
Gotham Chopra: I remember my dad came home one time, and he said, “I’m going to meet Michael Jackson at his house at Neverland Ranch. Do you want to come?” I mean, of course. So that was the first time I met him. I mean, there was no stigma– associated with any of it.
But by 2005 the stigma attached to Neverland was undeniable. It had become a symbol of Michael Jackson’s worst crisis: the allegations of child molestation that had trailed him ever since he settled a claim by a boy in 1993. And now a 13 year old boy was claiming Jackson had molested him at Neverland. Jackson denied ever having molested a child. Jackson family members were there for support at his trial, including his brother Jermaine.
Jermaine Jackson: The toughest part was seeing him wake up at 4 in the morning to be lied on. To be lied on and to be ridiculed and they tried everything they could try.
Despite Michael Jackson’s worst fears, he was acquitted of all the charges against him that sunny June day in 2005. He walked out a free man. The legal fight was over, but Jackson’s emotional battles didn’t end.
Tom Mesereau: After the verdict, I saw him at Neverland. He wasn’t celebrating. He was just thanking God for– for surviving.
And attorney Mesereau had one key bit of legal – and personal- advice for his client: Leave Neverland.
Josh Mankiewicz: Why should a guy not return to his home after he’s been acquitted?
Tom Mesereau: I had seen for over a year how viciously– the prosecutors and the sheriffs went after him. And they were so humiliated by the result that I felt they would be gunning for him all the time. I felt he could never live in peace if he stayed at Neverland.
Jackson’s sister Latoya – who’s told different stories to different interviewers at different times – says her brother felt Neverland could never be his home again.Latoya Jackson: He didn’t like what it represented. He felt that they had violated his privacy, when the cops came in. He said, I don’t wish to be there anymore. It will never be the same for me, I never wish to come back here.
Days after his acquittal, Jackson saw his friend Deepak Chopra, who says Jackson asked him for a prescription for the addictive painkiller Oxycontin. Chopra refused.
Deepak Chopra: When I probed into this, I found that he was getting medication from several sources and from then on we had an on/off relationship where he avoided people that were trying to help him, including his own family.
That ominous conversation was the last time Chopra saw Jackson. The very next day, Michael Jackson left his California castle for a new sort of fairy tale kingdom on the other side of the globe.
“Remember the Time,” the video Michael Jackson fans remember from 1992, a sort of Egyptian version of “Thriller,” complete with cameos by Eddie Murphy, Iman, and Magic Johnson. Thirteen years later, Jackson would begin his own real life adventure into the Middle East.J. Randy Taraborrelli: He wanted to go as far away as he could from what had occurred at Neverland, and what farther place can you think of but Bahrain?
The kingdom of Bahrain, a tiny island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia.
Ambassador Ereli: I like to call Bahrain the little Kingdom that can.J. Adam Ereli is the United States ambassador to Bahrain.
Ambassador Ereli: It may be small, but it does things that nobody else does. And one of the most important things is that it is a welcoming and tolerant society in a region not known for being open and tolerant.
And Bahrain was tolerant enough to host the most eccentric of Americans as Michael Jackson began his self-imposed exile as the guest of this man: Sheikh Abdulla Hamad Al Khalifa, son of the king of Bahrain.
Claire Hoffman: Sheik Abdullah had a friendship with Jermaine Jackson.
Claire Hoffman has been reporting on Jackson for Rolling Stone.
Claire Hoffman: Jermaine had converted to Islam and had worked on music with Sheik Abdulla who was this big pop music fan and who had– musical aspirations himself. So Michael called– Sheik Abdullah and– and somehow– on that phone call– Sheik Abdullah decided to pay Jackson’s remaining legal fees for the Santa Barbara case.
Josh Mankiewicz: And then took him in?
Claire Hoffman: And then took him in.
So began the Arabian nights of Michael Jackson. Dateline was given exclusive access to this luxurious villa in Bahrain where Jackson stayed with his three children, all courtesy of his new benefactor Sheikh Abdullah.
Ahmed Al Khan: In America he was Michael Jackson the star, the icon. Here he was Michael Jackson the person.
Ahmed al khan is a friend of Sheikh Abdulla. He also became one of Jackson’s closest confidantes when the singer arrived in Bahrain. This is his first television interview.
Ahmed Al Khan: He looked beaten. And so people here, Abdulla, myself, all the people around him really helped Michael recover really quickly. They gave him his space. And they let him recoup. They gave him rest. They gave him his privacy.
He says Jackson and Sheikh Abdulla developed a strong bond.
Ahmed Al Khan: He really looked at Michael as a brother. He really protected him. They shopped together. They joked together. They traveled together.
And they made music together. The sheikh agreed to finance Jackson’s life in Bahrain, and Jackson was expected to record songs written by the sheikh on his new label, called Two Seas Records.
Gerald Posner: They signed a deal that by 2012 Michael Jackson would be productive. He would produce two albums.
Gerald Posner is the chief investigative reporter for the Web site The Daily Beast.
Gerald Posner: He would write a Broadway type musical. And– he would also write an autobiography– and all of this would be done under production companies that Prince Abdullah would have.
Michael Jackson seemed to be putting his life back together, and on someone else’s dime, enjoying a leisurely life with his three children. He may even have used this restful time in the desert to end his dependency on prescription drugs.
Mohammed Bin Sulayem: Everybody wanted a piece of him. And here he felt a bit safe and secure from the people. And when he was among the right people, he was himself.
Mohammed Bin Sulayem is an off-road racing champion and entrepreneur as well as a close friend of Sheikh Abdulla. He says he never saw Jackson with any drugs.
Mohammed Bin Sulayem: I can only say what I experienced. From all the time I spent together I never saw him using a drug.
At first Jackson seemed to blend in fairly well in Bahrain, a country where a lot of people cover their faces in public. He wore an Abaya, the traditional Muslim dress. But as the months went on, Jackson apparently wore out his welcome when a few public appearances outside of Bahrain generated that traditional Michael Jackson controversy.
Gerald Posner: He went into the ladies’ bathroom in a– and started to apply make-up in a– shopping center in Dubai. And a woman, an Arab woman who was there– who– took a picture of him. And he called over his security guards, they grabbed her. They confiscated her camera.
And Jackson’s friendship with Sheikh Abdulla began to fall apart as well. The sheikh was spending millions of dollars on his new friend, but Jackson hadn’t lived up to his end of the deal. No new album to add to his catalog, no Broadway musical, no autobiography. Just a handful of songs that have never been released.Mohammed Bin Sulayem: Sheikh Abdulla, I think, was a good influence, a very good influenced, on– on Michael– on Michael. And he pushed him in– in the right way to come back. He was hoping for a lot of things. but I think Michael came to. He wasn’t strong enough to deliver.
And so this relationship ended the way a lot of Michael Jackson’s business affairs ended…with a lawsuit. The sheikh sued jackson for 7 million dollars. These two former partners in song eventually settled for an undisclosed amount. But the whole episode put jackson back on a plane again…headed –literally–for greener pastures.
Michael Jackson’s friendship with Sheikh Abdulla of Bahrain had gone south. So he and his family left the Mideast and headed west. To the land of shamrocks, leprechauns and Guinness: Ireland. It was summer 2006 – and Jackson’s nomadic existence had him house-hunting, or rather castle-hunting – on the emerald isle. But first he paid a visit to an old friend.Michael Flatley: I felt that he was inspired here.
It was a conclave of self-promotion royalty. Michael Flatley, the lord of the dance, hosted the self-proclaimed King Of Pop…here at Flatley’s estate, Castle Hyde. These two, both justly famous for their footwork, had met back in 1996 when they were each on tour in Australia.
Michael Flatley: I walked into his dressing room, and he said– “How’s the greatest dancer in the world?” And naturally, I replied, “I was gonna ask you the same thing.” And when Jackson arrived for his stay, Flatley used a reliable Irish custom to break the ice.
Michael Flatley: I grabbed him by the arm and brought him down to the bar, we have a little– bar in the house here and poured him a pint of Guinness. And– the– at first he thought it was coffee, he’d never seen Guinness before, I don’t think. But– halfway through it, (laugh) I tell you what, he was a new man. He had a great time. And– we certainly laughed and– and– had a lotta fun together.
This is the first time Michael Flatley has spoken about Jackson’s time at Castle Hyde. He says the castle’s surroundings and the Irish countryside seemed to be a refuge for his friend.
Michael Flatley: He could be himself completely somehow here, away from the world’s eye, away from prying eyes, I guess.
But did the Riverdancer and the moonwalker dance together?
Michael Flatley: It was always a dream of mine to dance with– Michael Jackson. But– whatever happened here, I’ll take to the grave.
Although Jackson seemed to enjoy his stay, Flatley says he couldn’t help noticing a certain sadness in his guest.
Michael Flatley: I remember when he finally left Castle Hyde, there was a bit of a sadness, I think, in all of us, we all felt sad that he was leaving, and there was an emptiness of some kind.
Over 18 months, Jackson would rent a number of estates throughout Ireland – including this one, Ballinacurra house.
Des McGahan: We’ve been open as a business, as a private estate, for exclusive hire for approximately five years.
Des McGahan rented his 22-bedroom estate to Jackson later that summer.
Des McGahan: There’s lots of very fine, big country estates in Ireland where I guess he was possibly tryin’ to find the next Neverland or the next home for his children.
Jackson was mostly house-bound, staying in this Africa-themed bedroom and spending time with his kids outside on the playground. McGahan and his wife kept their distance but did snap these photos. Then one day Jackson decided to venture out into town, wearing a mask and pajamas.
Des McGahan: We couldn’t understand why he walked around town in his pajamas, and that created a furor around the town, ‘did you see Michael Jackson around town in his pajamas?’
But to the McGahans, Michael Jackson all in all was far more normal than they had expected him to be.
Des McGahan: We felt really very sorry for him. He was looking for a home. He really was tryin’ to look for normality.
Jackson was also looking for a creative spark for some new songs, trying to catch up with a music industry that had left him behind.
Michael Jackson: I’m pretty much being inspired by the music and hearing other counter, you know riffs what I can add on to inspire to it.
In October 2006, at a recording studio outside Dublin, he held a session with Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas. Access Hollywood captured it on tape, as the hip-hop star played some tracks he had composed for Jackson.
Michael Jackson: Very nice groove. I love the chords.
As it turned out, this was also one of Jackson’s last recorded interviews.
Michael Jackson: Music is very much like tapestry, it’s just layers, but sometimes you can put too much.
He said little in the interview itself, but in these outtakes, as he talks to the cameraman about his lighting, Jackson hints at that insomnia that plagued him.
Michael Jackson: Yeah less shadow. Cameraman: Less shadow. It’s more frontal. You like that?
Michael Jackson: I like that, but can you pump more? Like a little hotter?
Cameraman: You mean warmer? Brighter?
Michael Jackson: No, brighter. Take away the shadows. I’m trying to look like I slept (laughs). So I need your help, please.
Jackson still needed help overcoming his sleepless nights. And he apparently wasn’t getting that help in Ireland after nearly a year and a half of living out of suitcases, Jackson finally came home to the U.S. But he didn’t come back to Neverland. Instead, https://gracemj.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.phphe went to Las Vegas, where he would soon meet the man who could supply him with that good night’s sleep.
It was November 2006 at the world music awards in London, Michael Jackson was expected to perform for the first time publicly in nearly a decade. But all he could muster was a few bars of “We Are The World.” It was yet another bizarre performance by a man who once ruled the world of music, and it fed stories that Jackson was in a downward spiral. He had been traveling the world, from the deserts of the Middle East, to the greenery of Ireland.Josh Mankiewicz: One gets the feeling that he was just sort of this–
J. Randy Taraborrelli: He was this vagabond.
Josh Mankiewicz: Yeah, this nomadic celebrity without a country.J. Randy Taraborrelli: If he wasn’t Michael Jackson, he would’ve just been this guy, you know, bunking out on your– you know, in your guest room. This pest who, you know, you can’t get rid of.
During that time he was living far away from the excesses of show business, but that Christmas Jackson and his children came home to the U.S. The onetime Jehovah’s Witness arrived in Sin City: Las Vegas.
Zar Zanganeh: In my opinion, Vegas has always been a safe place for him.
Zar Zanganeh was Jackson’s real estate agent in Las Vegas.
Zar Zanganeh: We’re far from the paparazzi inside the casinos are usually shooed out. Most of the neighborhoods in town are guard-gated, so paparazzis can’t come through the homes. And this is a place he was a comfortable. He has family in town.
Biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli agrees that family probably played a role in getting Jackson back home, specifically, his mother Katherine.
Randy Tarroborrelli: I think he missed his mother. In one of the two talks I had with him, he told me that he really missed his mom.
Michael Jackson was back where he had once entertained audiences as a teen alongside his brothers on the Vegas strip. Back in the city that was full of the same temptations he may have been trying to escape, including drugs – and the people who could provide them. At the same time, he continued to search for a new Neverland and it looked as if he might have found one.
Gerald Posner: He gets obsessed with buying the Sultan of Brunei’s 150,000 square-foot home.
Gerald Posner writes for the Web site The Daily Beast.
Gerald Posner: That’s gonna replace Neverland. And he just is obsessed. He can’t come up with the money. The Sultan doesn’t wanna sell to him. He can’t afford it. He can’t finance it.
By now Jackson’s financial situation was precarious: Some estimates put his debt at $500 million. He hadn’t released any new music in six years. But he continued live in the same luxurious lifestyle of his “Thriller” days, shopping for other opulent palaces that were beyond his means.
Zar Zanganeh: Out of the blue he said, “We’re gonna call this Wonderland.” We had seen probably a dozen homes. And when he came in here, he just knew right away. He was glowing. He was smiling.
Jackson had lived in Las Vegas before. But this time around, he had more of a phantom presence, popping up unexpectedly at local stores for his unusual speed-shopping sprees. Claire Hoffman of Rolling Stone learned that Michael Jackson’s shopping also extended online to eBay.
Claire Hoffman: He was a night owl if– if not an absolute total insomniac. And he would get on the computer at night. And he had multiple accounts. And he would open accounts in– the name of some of his staff and use their addresses in order to just purchase a lot of stuff.
But that wasn’t the only shopping Jackson was apparently doing.
Norm Clarke: We’ve heard that he– was– definitely into– doctor shopping, while he was here.
Norm Clarke is a Las Vegas newspaper columnist.
Norm Clarke: I’ve talked to– two different doctors– about– about how it– worked. And– one of the doctors was called and– and said that– Michael Jackson was not feeling well. Could he– treat him? And he went over and checked him out. And he couldn’t find evidence of a cough or congestion. And he figured out quite quickly that– that this was a ruse. They made their intentions known very quickly that– Mr. Jackson needed– this drug, this drug, this drug, this drug.
Josh Mankiewicz: How many doctors did he have?
Gotham Chopra: I mean, dozens…through the years.
Gotham Chopra, Jackson’s friend of nearly 20 years.
Gotham Chopra: Michael used his celebrity. And he would befriend doctors. I mean, he knew how to get the stuff that he wanted. He was very smart.
Josh Mankiewicz: Meaning that if he wanted some particular kind of drug, he could get that too?
Gotham Chopra: Yeah, yeah. I mean, and he had all sorts of doctors all over, you know, Beverly Hills, frankly. That you know, like I said, enabled him.
But it was in Las Vegas that a new doctor first entered Jackson’s life: Cardiologist Conrad Murray. The doctor that would be with him when he died. Their relationship began with a phone call from a hotel suite where Jackson was staying.Gerald Posner: One of his children got sick; I don’t know which one. And that a member of the security– team actually knew Dr. Murray from his Vegas practice and recommended him. Dr. Murray treated Jackson’s child, who got better, and the two hit it off.
Murray had a large practice, with a clinic in Houston where he regularly treated low-income patients, and an office in Las Vegas, where his patients describe him as a caring and talented doctor.
Bob Russell: I went to the emergency room and- and I must say that– I felt extraordinarily blessed at that time to have Dr. Murray.
Bob Russell, Frank Barbee, and Jack Hammond were all patients of Dr. Murray, and all say he saved their lives.
Josh Mankiewicz: This is to all of you. Dr. Murray, skilled?
Bob Russell: Yes.
Frank Barbee: Yes.
Bob Russell: Very much. Absolutely.
Josh Mankiewicz: Caring?
Frank Barbee: Yes.
Bob Russell: Very much, extraordinarily so.
Josh Mankiewicz: Competent?
Frank Barbee: We’re here.
Jack Hammond: The best.
But Dr. Conrad Murray never before had a patient like Michael Jackson. Early in 2009 Murray suspended his practices and became Jackson’s personal physician. That would set in motion the final chain of events in Jackson’s life, and it would make Dr. Murray a household name in a way he probably never imagined.
Michael Jackson’s blockbuster album “Thriller” was now 25 years old, and the star released a video statement to celebrate.I have you my fans throughout the world to thank for this achievement. There is still much more to come from Michael Jackson.
There was more to come, but it wouldn’t be music. Jackson’s base was now a rented home in Las Vegas. This was where – on August 29, 2008 – Michael Jackson looked at the man in the mirror, and saw a 50-year-old looking back at him. For someone who saw himself as Peter Pan, hitting the big 5-0 couldn’t have been an easy milestone.
J. Randy Taraborrelli: He would look in the mirror and he– and he had some regrets about some of the– mistakes he made when he was in his ’30s, you know, some of the plastic surgery that was done. He definitely wished he could’ve gone back and done it differently.On and off for years Jackson had been dulling the pains of his life – both physical and emotional – with various prescription drugs. In 1997 he even released a song called “Morphine” written after he’d been to rehab, written about a drug that once ruled his life. Years later, J. Randy Taraborrelli began to hear about a new, different drug that Jackson was using: the ultimate cure for his insomnia, and his nightmares.
J. Randy Taraborrelli: The source told me, “You will not believe what Mike is doing right now to sleep.” And I said, “Well, what are you talking about?” And he said, “He’s– he’s taking an anesthetic. He’s– he’s actually going under anesthesia.” The– the word Propofol wasn’t used.
Since Jackson’s death, Propofol has become the most famous anesthetic in America.
Bruce Goldberger: It should not be administered at home. It should not be administered at home even by a doctor who’s experienced.
Bruce Goldberger is a professor of toxicology at the University Of Florida.
Bruce Goldberger: It needs to be administered in a clinic or at a hospital, where respiration can be supported. And where one can be treated if there’s– an acute reaction to the drug.
Josh Mankiewicz: So if you use Propofol anyplace besides a hospital or surgical setting, what? You’re rolling the dice?
Bruce Goldberger: It’s Russian roulette really. There’s a good chance that eventually you’re gonna lose.
But Jackson was about to up the ante. Even though he hadn’t given a full concert in more than a decade, in March of last year, Jackson announced a comeback tour: fifty concerts in London – a schedule that might have exhausted a much younger performer. The rehearsal footage in the movie “This Is It” shows just how tough it was going to be to get up and sparkle onstage, Jackson needed a doctor he could rely on. Someone like Dr. Conrad Murray. Reporter Gerald Posner interviewed Murray for the web site The Daily Beast.
Gerald Posner: Michael Jackson sort of fell into his lap. Here was somebody that he knew, that he had a– a relationship with that he calls a friendship, and that all of a sudden you have Michael Jackson come to you and say, “You can be my tour doctor for the next year,” at a sum that we’ve all heard is $150,000 a month.
For the cardiologist, it would mean suspending his practice for a once-in-a lifetime job, and a financial windfall that would have come in handy, because Murray was stretched thin financially. One of Murray’s patients in Las Vegas, Bob Russell, says the doctor was thrilled with the new opportunity.
Bob Russell: He was so excited. I mean it was just evident– with his excitement and– you know, kind of repeating, “Hey, I’m going to– you know, I’m going with Michael and I’m heading off to Europe.” He was just like, you know, a kid ready to do a cartwheel, “Man, I’m– I’m– I’m heading up the mountaintop.”
And it wasn’t long before Russell noticed a change in the doctor he had trusted so completely.Bob Russell: I think he just got enamored with the– the star, the– wow– I– I don’t know how to– how to define it.
Josh Mankiewicz: Michael Jackson had, what, taken your place?
Bob Russell: Well, yeah. And I can appreciate and understand that.
Dr. Murray may have thought he was heading to the mountaintop. Instead, he was on his way to a tremendous fall.
Paramedic: Fire paramedic 33: What is your address for your emergency?Male: Yes, sir. I need to– I need an ambulance as soon as possible, sir.
It was June 25th, 2009. Michael Jackson lay dead or dying in his L.A. mansion.
Paramedic: Did anybody see him?Male: Yes, we have a personal doctor here with him, sir.
Paramedic: Oh, you have a doctor there?
That doctor was Conrad Murray. The well-regarded cardiologist from Las Vegas who was now caring for just one patient.
Since that day in June, LAPD detectives have been piecing together what happened. What Dr. Murray did, and what he didn’t do leading up to Jackson’s death, and the doctor’s actions in the minutes and hours after.
Though he rode in the ambulance with Jackson, police say Murray didn’t share key information with the paramedics – that Murray had given Jackson the powerful anesthetic Propofol to help him sleep. At the hospital, police say Murray didn’t tell the e-r doctors about Propofol and he also didn’t mention it to the first detectives on the scene, suggesting to investigators that Murray was aware he’d done something wrong. When Murray finally sat down with detectives two days after Jackson died, sources say he told them he had at first tried to talk Jackson out of using Propofol but that the singer knew the risks of the drug and insisted on it anyway.
According to police, Murray said that by the day Jackson died, he’d been giving Jackson Propofol nearly every night for six weeks, but said he’d been trying to wean Jackson off of it. According to court documents, Murray laid out a timeline of what happened on that final day, describing a long night of giving drug after drug to one of the most famous entertainers ever…all just to help him get some sleep.
That timeline begins with a dose of valium, also known as diazepam, at 1:30 a.m. – which didn’t work. Then at 2 a.m., he gave Jackson an anxiety drug called lorazepam. But Jackson was still awake. At 3 a.m., a sedative called midazolam. Still nothing. At 5 a.m., more of the anxiety drug…then at 730 A.M., more of the sedative.
But Jackson still wasn’t sleeping, and Murray said his famous patient was specifically asking for propofol. Some nine hours after Jackson first went to bed, at 10:40 a.m., Dr. Murray gave in, and administered 25 milligrams of Propofol –a fairly small dose– to Jackson through an I.V. drip.
But investigators say Dr. Murray’s story doesn’t add up, that the L.A. County Coroner’s Office found concentrations of Propofol in Jackson’s blood that suggest Dr. Murray gave a lot more Propofol to Jackson than the doctor has admitted.
Dateline has learned the results of the coroner’s tests for propofol in jackson’s blood and shared them with toxicology professor Bruce Goldberger.
Bruce Goldberger: It is the amount that you would expect in someone under Propofol anesthesia. Someone who is unconscious with their respiratory functions supported by mechanical means.
Josh Mankiewicz: Suggesting that Dr. Murray’s story to the police isn’t supported by the scientific evidence?
Bruce Goldberger: The toxicicological evidence from the coroner’s office does not support Dr. Murray’s statements of drug administration that early morning of Michael Jackson’s death.
And that’s not the only statement of Murray’s that’s being called into question. Investigators say Murray told them that shortly after he gave Jackson the Propofol, around 10:50 a.m., Murray left Jackson for about two minutes to go to the bathroom. When he returned, he saw that Jackson wasn’t breathing and began administering CPR.
But Dr. Murray’s cell phone records tell a very different story, according to the LAPD. They show that during the time that Murray says he was monitoring Jackson –essential for someone under the influence of Propofol– the doctor was on the phone, calling a friend, his medical office – and his patient – Bob Russell. Murray got Russell’s voicemail. We’ve obtained the message he left.
This is Doctor Murray, Bob. Hi, how are you? Um, sorry I missed you.
Russell says –and Dateline has confirmed– that the timestamp on that phone call is 11:54 a.m. That’s about an hour after Murray said he walked into Jackson’s room and started CPR. And about 25 minutes before the ambulance was called. So, was Murray wrong about the timeline? Or, was this message left at almost exactly the time Dr. Murray says he was trying to save Michael Jackson’s life? Sources say Murray didn’t tell detectives about the phone calls.Just wanted to talk to you about your results of the EECP. You did quite well on the study.
Listening to the message, Dr. Murray doesn’t sound like a man who is dealing with a dying patient.
Josh Mankiewicz: He sounds subdued.
Bob Russell: Yeah, yeah, he did sound subdued.
We would love to continue to see you as a patient even though I may have to be absent from my practice for uh-because of an overseas sabbatical.
Josh Mankiewicz: I would certainly argue that the voice of Dr. Murray on your voicemail is too calm and composed for someone who had already gone through what he says he went through when Mr. Jackson died.
Bob Russell: If anything, he was suffering from a lack of sleep.
In all, according to court documents, Murray was on his cell for 47 minutes. Was he sitting there watching Jackson the whole time? Or was he focused on the conversations he was having? Was he even in the same room? Murray’s attorney disputes the timeline, calling it “police theory.”
Just how closely Murray was paying attention to Jackson could become an issue at trial. Anesthesiologists are pretty much unanimous in saying that Propofol should never be given outside a hospital or surgical setting, because patients require close and constant monitoring.
Despite that, Dr. Murray admitted giving Jackson Propofol with almost no safeguards in place. Jackson was hooked up, sources say, to a pulse oximeter but not to a heart or blood-pressure monitor. There was also no defibrillator available to restart Jackson’s heart.
Police did find a disposable bag-valve device like this one that could have been used to pump air into Jackson’s lungs at the scene. Was it Murray’s… Or did it belong to paramedics? Investigators can’t say for sure, and if there is a trial, Murray could claim that he device was his. However, he didn’t mention it in his LAPD interview.
Since June Dr. Murray hasn’t said much. Speaking for him, his attorney said the doctor never gave Jackson anything that should have killed him.
Back in November, and speaking softly, Murray talked to his Houston church about what he’s been going through.
Today showed all the signs of an OJ-sized story, with Murray’s attorneys openly threatening to surrender their client at a police station even if charges weren’t yet filed.
Prosecutors did not respond. Their trump card is that they can always have police arrest Murray and drag him into court. Negotiations continue about how and when Murray might be taken into custody. Prosecutors now say they’re ready to file charges next week.
Investigators asked roughly a dozen members of the California medical board to review the case. Sources say all described Dr. Murray’s conduct as negligent, which could be a key part of any future prosecution.
His more immediate problem is the jury he may face here in Los Angeles. His patients, who know Dr. Murray well, say they still trust him.
Josh Mankiewicz: Can you conceive of Dr. Murray being involved in essentially negligent, reckless conduct that could cause someone’s death?
Jack Hammond: I can’t.
Frank Barbee: No way.
Jack Hammond: I can’t. No, not at all.
Bob Russell: I’m going to say that I– I don’t want to believe it. It is hard to reconcile the doctor they describe as saving their lives with one who could take a life by giving a patient a potentially deadly drug without the proper safeguards in place simply because that famously rich, troubled patient asked for it.
The comeback tour that never happened could have been memorable for both the artist and his physician. It seemed so perfect for both of them. The weeks ahead may provide answers to how all of that ended in tragedy for both doctor and patient.