Skip to main content

Elvis' ghost haunts Michael Jackson death trial

By Alan Duke, CNN
April 11, 2013 -- Updated 1457 GMT (2257 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jackson family lawyers invoke Elvis's drug use to make a point in death case
  • Elvis Presley's doctor was acquitted on charges of over-prescribing drugs
  • Lisa Marie Presley is on the Jacksons' witness list
  • "I am afraid that I am going to end up like him, the way he did," Jackson told Elvis's daughter

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Tour manager Paul Gongaware warned Michael Jackson's 1993 tour doctor, "Don't be a Dr. Nick" -- a reference to Elvis Presley's last physician -- according to a deposition for the upcoming wrongful death trial.

"Dr. Nick was the doctor whose overprescription of drugs to Elvis had led to Elvis' death," according to a court filing by lawyers for the Jackson family.

Presley collapsed in the bathroom of his Memphis, Tennessee, mansion -- Graceland -- on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42. While his death was ruled the result of an irregular heartbeat, the autopsy report was sealed amid accusations that abuse of prescription drugs caused the problem.

"Dr. Nick" -- Dr. George Nichopoulos -- said later he was treating Presley for insomnia. He was charged with over-prescribing drugs to Presley, but he was acquitted. He later lost his medical license in another case.

Conrad Murray maintains his innocence
Jackson doctor speaks from jail
Allred: Murray could be subpoenaed
Will Murray conviction be overturned?

Presley's death came days before he was to begin a new tour organized by the concert promoter Concerts West.

Judge: No cameras in Jackson death trial

Jackson died on June 25, 2009, at the age of 50. The coroner ruled his death was caused by a fatal combination of sedatives and the surgical anesthetic propofol.

His personal physician -- Dr. Conrad Murray -- told investigators he gave Jackson nightly infusions of propofol to treat his insomnia. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, sentenced to four years in prison and stripped of his medical license.

Jackson's death came two weeks before his "This Is It" comeback concerts, organized by AEG Live, were to have debuted in London. AEG got into the concert promotion business when it purchased Concerts West, a young company that had taken the name of Elvis' last promoter.

Jackson's mother and three children are suing AEG Live, claiming the concert promoter is liable for the singer's death because it hired, retained or supervised Dr. Murray.

Elvis' name could loom in the wrongful death trial which is starting this month in a Los Angeles courtroom, especially if his daughter takes the stand. Lisa Marie Presley, who was married to Jackson from May 1994 until January 1996, is on the witness list.

AEG Live to put Jackson on trial in his own death

"I am afraid that I am going to end up like him, the way he did," Jackson told his wife during their short marriage, according to a blog Presley published a day after Jackson's death.

The Jackson lawyers used the Elvis and "Dr. Nick" reference to argue that "AEG knew Jackson had suffered chronic substance abuse and drug dependency problems for many years." Gongaware, now AEG Live's co-CEO, managed Jackson's "Dangerous" and "HIStory" tour between 1993 and 1997.

"Shortly after he joined the 'Dangerous' tour in 1993, Dr. Finkelstein was asked to treat Jackson for pain," the Jackson filing said, referring to Dr. Stuart Finkelstein, a doctor on the 1993 tour. "Having observed signs of opiate addiction in Jackson, Dr. Finkelstein nonetheless administered Demerol by injection, and administered morphine intravenously in Jackson's Bangkok hotel room for 24 hours."

After that, Finkelstein told Gongaware "he thought Jackson had an opiate dependency problem," the filing said.

"For three and a half months, the 'Dangerous' tour continued," it said. "Another doctor attended Jackson regularly, on one occasion breaking into Dr. Finkelstein's bag to get opiates to administer to Jackson. Gongaware was there the whole time, in charge of tour logistics, aware of the various physicians present, and he discussed with Dr. Finkelstein Jackson's opiate problem."

When Gongaware warned Dr. Finkelstein, who the brief described as his "close friend," not to become Jackson's "Dr. Nick," he was "warning me, you know, don't get all infatuated where you start administering meds to a rock star and have the rock star overdose and die on you," Dr. Finkelstein testified.

Sharon Osbourne added to trial

"Though those tours were hugely successful, Jackson's tour doctors, one of whom Gongaware had hired, were administering pain killers to Jackson, and Gongaware thus was familiar with Jackson's substance abuse problems," the Jackson brief said.

AEG lawyer Marvin Putman told CNN, however, there "were no indicators or warning signs of a problem" with Dr. Murray.

Murray was not Gongaware's first choice to be Jackson's tour doctor in 2009, according to the filing. He first called Finkelstein, who advertises himself now as an addiction specialist, the document said.

While Murray has said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights to avoid testifying as his criminal appeal is pending, Dr. Finkelstein is expected to take the stand.

AEG's lawyers will use Jackson's drug use history in their defense, arguing that it showed Jackson was responsible for his own death.

"Mr. Jackson is a person who was known to doctor shop," AEG's attorney Marvin Putnam said. "He was known to be someone who would tell one doctor one thing and another doctor something else."

Jackson's 2005 child molestation trial, which ended in his acquittal, is relevant because it "resulted in an incredible increase in his drug intake," Putnam said.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Experts believe that ISIS may be using a Spanish enclave to bring jihad to Europe.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1300 GMT (2100 HKT)
With an efficient subway, inexpensive taxis and a good public bus system, Hong Kong is normally an easy city to navigate ...
September 28, 2014 -- Updated 2332 GMT (0732 HKT)
CNN's Ivan Watson was in the middle of a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong when things got out of hand.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
The world's animal population has halved in 40 years as humans put unsustainable demands on Earth, a new report warns.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1249 GMT (2049 HKT)
Every day, refugees and migrants risk their lives as they seek a new life. Now, a new report puts a figure to the number of victims.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Mainstream commentators must promote positive role models to Muslims feeling victimized, writes Ghaffar Hussain.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 0613 GMT (1413 HKT)
Two men familiar with inside knowledge of ISIS speak with CNN's Arwa Damon.
Explore CNN's interactive that explains ISIS' roots, what it controls, and where its support comes from.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 2010 GMT (0410 HKT)
In his first-ever interview as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani defended his country against allegations of funding terrorism.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 1503 GMT (2303 HKT)
The North Korean leader hasn't been seen for weeks, leading to speculation that he is in poor health.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0154 GMT (0954 HKT)
Haider al-Abadi hopes airstrikes don't lead to "of another terrorist element" instead of ISIS.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
The United States couldn't do it on its first try. Neither could the Soviets.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 1529 GMT (2329 HKT)
CNN's Nima Elbagir reflects on a harrowing trip to Liberia where she covered the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT)
Contrary to public opinion, rats can actually save lives -- Apopo's rats have actually saved thousands.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT