Michael Jackson’s final day: A sleepless night, dangerous drugs and a death that shook the world

A poster of Michael Jackson is signed by fans near his star on Hollywood Boulevard on June 29, 2009.
(Gabriel Bouys / AFP/Getty Images)

The rumors started flowing in the afternoon 10 years ago: Something was going on at Michael Jackson’s estate in Holmby Hills.

The singer — dogged for years by allegations of abuse and medical issues — had been back in the public eye with a comeback tour.

Over the next few hours, the world would learn that Jackson was dead.

And over the next year, the secret life of the King of Pop would come to light. Authorities declared his death a homicide and charged his physician with giving him the powerful drugs that would kill him. Dr. Conrad Murray would later be convicted.


There would be a legal battle over his estate and money, and more recently, new allegations that he sexually abused children.

Here’s a look back from the pages of The Times on the superstar’s death:

June 24, 2009

Jackson is deep into rehearsals for his comeback tour. The pressure is on, and the singer has complained about not being able to sleep. The Associated Press later described those hours:

The rehearsal ended around midnight Wednesday night with a performance of “Earth Song.” The singer hugged his dancers, thanked the crew and wished them a good night. “God bless you.”


Jackson returned to Carolwood Drive, stopping briefly at its metal gate to greet a small group of fans who had gathered outside his home.

As they pulled into the driveway, the bodyguard noticed Dr. Murray’s car parked outside the home, just as it had been many nights previously.

Jackson’s security personnel escorted him into the house and to the foot of the stairs. No one, except for Murray and Jackson’s children, was allowed upstairs.

Soon after Jackson arrived home, he started complaining of fatigue and that he needed sleep.

June 25, 2009

Through the night and morning, Jackson receives a series of drugs meant to help him sleep, officials would later say.

Murray, officials said, gave him those powerful drugs. Jackson is found unresponsive later.

Jack­son is rushed to a hos­pit­al by Los Angeles Fire De­part­ment para­med­ics, who found him in car­di­ac ar­rest and not breath­ing. Ef­forts to re­vive him are un­suc­cess­ful.

From The Times’ front page story:


Michael Jackson, an incomparable figure in music, dance and culture whose ever-changing face graced the covers of albums that sold more than half a billion copies, died Thursday, shortly after going into cardiac arrest at his rented Holmby Hills mansion. He was 50. He spent much of his life as one of the most famous people on the planet, and to many, his untimely death felt both unthinkable and, oddly, inevitable.

LAPD Lt. Greg Strenk holds a news conference in front of singer Michael Jackson’s home on June 25, 2009.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

June 26, 2009

The Los Angeles County cor­on­er’s office com­pletes an autopsy on Jack­son’s body but de­fers de­term­in­ing the cause of death un­til more tests are done. An invest­ig­a­tion will go on to fo­cus on wheth­er the pop icon over­dosed on pre­scrip­tion drugs.

July 7, 2009

Jackson is laid to rest in a star-studded memorial at Staples Center.

From The Times’ story:

Music legends, sports figures, and civil rights leaders paid tribute to Michael Jackson today during an emotional, song-filled service at Staples Center that was part polished entertainment, part revival meeting. Jackson was praised as a music pioneer and a barrier-breaking cultural figure, who the Rev. Al Sharpton said paved the way for other black entertainers to reach superstardom. “Michael made us love each other. Michael taught us to stand with each other,” Sharpton said.

Aug. 24, 2009

The cor­on­er re­ports that the an­es­thet­ic propo­fol has been found with sed­at­ives in the pop star’s sys­tem, cre­at­ing a leth­al mix.

Aug. 28, 2009

Jack­son’s death is ruled a hom­icide.


Feb. 8, 2010

Los Angeles County pro­sec­utors file a long-an­ti­cip­ated in­vol­un­tary man­slaughter charge against Mur­ray, Jack­son’s per­son­al phys­i­cian.

Sept. 28, 2011

Pro­sec­u­tion wit­nesses test­i­fy that Mur­ray covered up the pop star’s health both be­fore and after his death, mis­lead­ing con­cert pro­moters and his entour­age.

Oct. 7, 2011

In an in­ter­view with LAPD de­tect­ives, Mur­ray de­scribes Jack­son as be­ing des­per­ate for sleep and ask­ing for propo­fol. (You can read the tran­script of the recor­ded in­ter­view with Mur­ray.)

Oct. 24, 2011

Jack­son’s friend and former phys­i­cian Dr. Al­lan Met­zger test­i­fies that the sing­er was search­ing for drugs to help him sleep two months be­fore his death.

Nov. 7, 2011

A jury of sev­en men and five wo­men de­lib­er­ates for about nine hours over two days be­fore reach­ing a guilty ver­dict in the tri­al against Mur­ray.

From The Times’ story:

A Los Angeles County jury convicted Michael Jackson’s personal physician of involuntary manslaughter, concluding a trial that offered a glimpse of the last days of one of the world’s most famous men by deciding that his death was a criminal act.

Nov. 29, 2011

Judge Mi­chael Pas­tor sen­tences Mur­ray to four years in county jail for his role in the death of the King of Pop. Pas­tor has a par­tic­u­larly harsh assessment of Mur­ray’s surreptitious iPhone re­cord­ingof a heav­ily drugged and slur­ring Jack­son. Taped a month and a half be­fore the pop star’s death and first played dur­ing open­ing state­ments, the judge says the re­cord­ing was de­signed to black­mail Jack­son.

Oct 27, 2013

Murray is released from prison.

Michael Jackson fans gather around Jackson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, earl
Michael Jackson fans gather around his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on June 26, 2009.
(Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

August 2018

A Michael Jackson retrospective is on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London, underscoring how the Jackson brand remains strong.

As The Times reported:

For the estate, it’s as much about honoring what would have been his 60th birthday on Wednesday as it is about reframing the narrative around one of pop music’s most acclaimed, yet tragic, figures as we approach the 10th anniversary of his passing. Jackson’s estate is especially keen on refocusing the sordid narrative that the pop star couldn’t escape in life by finding new ways to highlight his artistry. “We’ve done a lot of big idea projects and things aimed to attract new fans,” said John Branca, co-executor of Jackson’s estate. “Michael was so multifaceted and in trying to manage the brand we want to do things that capture each facet of who he was. But we start by thinking: What would Michael do?”

January 2019

“Leaving Neverland,” a documentary containing allegations that Michael Jackson sexual abused children, debuts at the Sundance Film Festival, sparking new debate about Jackson’s legacy.

April 27, 2019

A Los Angeles elementary school that briefly counted Jackson as a student before he skyrocketed to fame votes to keep his name on its auditorium, despite the sexual abuse allegations against him.

June 2019

Janet Jackson says she isn’t worried about her brother’s legacy. “It will continue. I love it when I see kids emulating him, when adults still listen to his music,” she told the Times of London.

Times staff writer Shelby Grad compiled this report.

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