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Jane Velez-Mitchell

Michael Jackson: What Killed Him?; Jackson`s Career Overshadowed by Legal, Financial Woes

Aired June 26, 2009 - 19:00   ET



VINNIE POLITAN, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Tonight, a special ISSUES report, remembering an icon. Michael Jackson dead at 50. Jacko was larger than life. From his moonwalk to his legal troubles.

MICHAEL JACKSON, MUSICIAN: Don`t treat me like a criminal. I am innocent.

POLITAN: There was always a show when the King of Pop was around. Now family, friends and fans worldwide come to grips with the seemingly out-of-nowhere death of this mega star.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He always wanted to be the best.




POLITAN: Already, rumors flying about drugs and foul play. Will the autopsy put these rumors to rest? And what will happen to his kids?

For the next hour, we`ll answer those questions and examine the controversial but always entertaining life and legacy of Michael Jackson. This ISSUES special report starts now.


POLITAN: Welcome to ISSUES. I`m Vinnie Politan in for Jane Velez- Mitchell.

Tonight, the Los Angeles Fire Department releases the dramatic 911 call that was made shortly before the world learned of the shocking and untimely death of music icon Michael Jackson.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a gentleman here that needs help, and he`s not breathing here. He`s not breathing and we need to -- we`re trying to pump him, but he`s not, he`s not...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s 50 years old, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifty? OK. He`s not conscious; he`s not breathing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he`s not breathing, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, and he`s not conscious, either.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, he`s not conscious, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. All right. Do you have -- what, is he on the floor? Where`s he at right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s on the bed, sir. On the bed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Let`s get him on the floor.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s get him down to the floor. You might have to do CPR right now. Wait right there. We`re going to help you over the phone. We`re already on our way. Did anyone see him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We have a personal doctor here with him, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, you have a doctor there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. But he`s not responding to anything. He`s not responding to CPR or anything.


POLITAN: Fans around the world are stunned by the sudden death of an icon, and of course, Jackson`s family members are completely devastated. The superstar`s brother Jermaine confirmed the tragic news last night.


JERMAINE JACKSON, BROTHER OF MICHAEL: My brother, the legendary King of Pop, Michael Jackson, passed away on Thursday, June 25, 2009, at 2:26 p.m. It is believed he suffered cardiac arrest in his home.


POLITAN: Jackson leaves behind a mixed legacy. His musical genius sometimes overshadowed by eccentric behaviors and allegations of child molestation. We`ll cover the man, his music and all the controversies tonight. But first, we start with his shocking death.

Joining me are Diane Dimond, syndicated columnist and author of "Be Careful Who You Love"; Lisa Bloom, CNN legal analyst; Dr. Bill Manion, pathologist and assistant medical examiner; Dr. Steve Nissen, a cardiologist; and Mike Walters from TMZ. And of course, by phone, our own Jane Velez-Mitchell, host of this show, ISSUES.

But Mike, I want to start with you. What do we know about this investigation into Jackson`s death at this hour?

MIKE WALTERS, TMZ: Well, I`ll start with this. We did a story on TMZ about the fact that there`s a doctor who is missing. That doctor that you heard on the 911 tape in the background was his personal physician who lived with him.

Now, that doctor had been giving Michael daily injections of a narcotic called Demerol, similar to morphine. We were told that 11:30 a.m., which is about an hour before that 911 tape came into L.A. City Fire, he received an injection of Demerol.

So, one of the things right now is, as LAPD and the coroner`s office wants to speak with this doctor, which we`re hearing it might happen soon here. But they want to speak, because obviously, he was the only one there and the only one with the answers.

POLITAN: All right. Jane Velez-Mitchell, an in-house, personal doctor is there at the time, looking into this case. This is going to be the linchpin to find out what happened to Michael Jackson.

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (via phone): Absolutely. What happened and why. Was this a natural death, or were there drugs involved? That`s the key question.

And I go back to a lawsuit that was filed against Michael Jackson and settled in 2007 in which a Beverly Hills pharmacist claimed that Michael Jackson owed him $100,000 for unpaid prescription bills for two years. And if you boil that down, that amounts to 10 grand in prescription drugs per month, and it amounts to approximately 2 grand in prescription drug use per day.

So, clearly, the reports that many close to him, including former Jackson family attorney Brian Oxman, had said that he was over-medicated and he was over-medicating, and they were concerned about him, and that according to Brian Oxman, who is a longtime Jackson family friend and former family attorney, he had warned the family that something like this could happen. He said he had warned the family he didn`t want to see Michael Jackson go the way of Anna Nicole Smith.

So, this is the key question right now: is this playing out in a similar way to the tragic death of Anna Nicole Smith? Of course, she died of an accidental drug overdose. And later there were charges filed against her doctors and her longtime partner for allegedly providing the drugs. We don`t have the answers now, but it`s looking very, very...

POLITAN: Looks like we`re at the beginning of this whole case. Dr. Steven Nissen, let`s bring you in. When you talk about Demerol and you talk about cardiac arrest, is there a relationship? Could there be a relationship between those two?

DR. STEVEN NISSEN, CARDIOLOGIST: It`s really too early to speculate about drugs in this event.

POLITAN: How about this. Could you, though, could Demerol cause a cardiac arrest?

NISSEN: If you gave an overdose of it, it could, but the issue here is that he`s in an age group when sudden cardiac death is actually relatively common. Three hundred thousand Americans die of sudden cardiac death every year, and 150,000 of them are under the age of 65 years of age.

And so, I think it`s -- of course, it`s always of interest to speculate, but we have to also recognize that there`s a distinct possibility that this was a tragic occurrence of something that happens every day in America.

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Vinnie, can I jump in?

POLITAN: Could be natural causes. Go ahead, Lisa Bloom.

BLOOM: I have a question for the doctor, though. Isn`t it far less common for cardiac arrest to occur when there`s a physician right there next to the patient who could revive them?

NISSEN: Absolutely not -- not a factor here. Look, when patients have a heart attack, about a third of them cannot be revived, no matter what you do. They have a fatal rhythm disturbance. I could be standing at a patient`s side and have him have a cardiac arrest and not be able to resuscitate them.

Keep in mind that there are not advanced life support equipment available here. The doctor doesn`t have necessarily everything he needs. We don`t -- we didn`t hear whether he had a defibrillator or not. Without a defibrillator, if you don`t shock a patient from a fatal rhythm disturbance within about four minutes, you probably will not get them back.

POLITAN: You have no chance. Let`s bring in Dr. Bill Manion on this. What will we learn from a toxicology report? Would we be able to find out if there was an overdose of Demerol from a toxicology?

DR. BILL MANION, PATHOLOGIST: Well, right today, if the pathologist performed the autopsy, if he found severe pulmonary congestion and edema -- in other words, it looks like a person drowned. Their lungs, their lung weight is four or five times what the normal weight should be.

If he finds any foam in the trachea or bronchi -- to me, when I do an autopsy like that, that`s a clue that this is going to turn out to be a drug overdose.

And but certainly, we have to wait until all the fluids are submitted. They`ll check for bile, urine, blood. And they`ll also take sections of organs -- brain, liver, spleen -- and check everything to be very careful about this drug overdose.

Right now, I mean, in my heart, I`m favoring a drug overdose, because it`s just so close to the one hour before he was injected with something. Plus, the drug may be in therapeutic levels, but if he`s got other drugs on board, there could be a synergistic effect.

POLITAN: And that`s something you could figure out through the toxicology. Let`s go to Diane Dimond. Diane, I know you`re champing at the bit to jump in here.

DIANE DIMOND, AUTHOR, "BE CAREFUL WHO YOU LOVE": If Lisa gets to jump in, I get to jump in. Now, here`s my question to the doctors. We know from reporting on Michael Jackson for a long time that he has had some drug abuse substance problems.

If he gets a shot of Demerol -- and I have not confirmed that he got a shot an hour before, but if he gets a shot of Demerol and he already has narcotics in his system, could that be a cause and effect?

NISSEN: Well, you know, patients die of drug overdoses. There`s no question about that. But really, we`re talking about something that`s pure speculation at this point in time. And I think...

DIMOND: But does Demerol interact with other drugs in a negative way?

NISSEN: Sure. Certainly, it can.

DIMOND: That was my question.

NISSEN: But, in fact, we really don`t have any toxicology to suggest that that did or did not happen.

DIMOND: Right.

NISSEN: And so, I think it`s just kind of wild speculation at this stage to talk about that. It may have been a factor. It may have had nothing to do with his death.

POLITAN: All right, everybody. Doctors, Mike, thanks for joining me.

My panel will stick with us because we`re just getting started. From the controversy surrounding Michael Jackson`s death to controversy surrounding his life. We`ll analyze the strange and tragic legend from his addictions to his legal battles.


JACKSON: It was the most humiliating ordeal of my life, one that no person should ever have to suffer, and even after experiencing the indignity of the search, the parties involved were still not satisfied and wanted to take even more. It was a nightmare.



POLITAN: As mystery surrounds the untimely death of Michael Jackson, we`re reminded that his life was also a source of mystery and controversy.

In 2005 he was charged with seven counts of child molestation and giving alcohol to a minor. After an epic 14-month trial, Jackson was cleared. Similar accusations were leveled at the star a decade earlier. A civil lawsuit in that case never made it to court because Jackson settled with the boy`s family.

Over the years, the pop icon also battled rumors that he was addicted to plastic surgery. Close-up images of his altered face in 2000 and 2001 made his denials hard to believe, especially for those who remembered him from his younger days as an emerging international megastar.

And then there was Neverland, his, quote, "paradise for children." Jackson was forced to sell the beloved retreat in 2008 because he was massively in debt. When he died yesterday, he reportedly left nearly half a billion in debt.

Still with me is my panel, and joining us, Michael Cardozo, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor; and Stuart Backerman, Michael Jackson`s former spokesman, who joins us by phone.

Stuart, you worked with Michael Jackson during some of the most tumultuous years of his life. How did Michael Jackson cope with all that controversy?

STUART BACKERMAN, FORMER MICHAEL JACKSON SPOKESMAN (via phone): Michael`s very good when it comes to controversy. Basically just doesn`t see it. Everybody around him, of course, saw and sees what`s going on, but Michael took things a lot more easier than people think.

POLITAN: I guess -- you know, when we saw him in the later years, he really didn`t deal with stress that well. Was it a stressful time during that and do you think it affected his health at all?

BACKERMAN: Well, I definitely think it affected his health, surely, the stress and anxiousness of these upcoming concerts. The `02 concerts in London, for example, were a tremendous stress simply because he was going to have to do 50 concerts every other night, which was a very, very difficult chore at the best of times.

Let`s look at Madonna, for example, who has said she takes yoga. She eats properly. She`s been doing it consistently over the years. She`s the same age as Michael. Michael is expected, after not performing or doing anything really, since the 2001 30th anniversary Motown special in Madison Square Garden, to actually perform at the same level of Madonna. That just really wasn`t ever going to happen.

And I think to a large extent, some of that pressure and anxiousness about doing that came to the fore. Michael really to a large extent wanted to do these concerts for two basic reasons.

No. 1, he wanted to do it for his family, particularly his two older children. He wanted them to see him perform as it was in the hey-day, in the "Thriller" days, for example. And he also wanted to perhaps do a short duet with his -- with Prince Michael, his older son.

And then secondly, of course, was the money. As I`ve heard on your show, discussing the financial aspect of it, there was obviously a lot of money on the table, and Michael had the opportunity to make a lot of money on this, not withstanding, you know, the amount of work that he would have to put into in order to accomplish that.

POLITAN: Jane Velez-Mitchell, you know, it seems in recent years, Michael Jackson has spent more time in courtrooms than on a stage anywhere. Why is that?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The legal battles were unbelievable. He sued and he was sued, and this was part of his whole history that turned this incredibly talented man into a rather dark figure, sinister in a sense, because there was this innocent side, but then there were the allegations of child abuse.

If you look back on his life, he really had a hard life. He was abused as a child by his father. This is well documented. Whipped, exploited in endless rehearsals, forced into adult situations where he was, like, under the covers while adults were having sex.

In 1984, he was burned while filming a Pepsi commercial. He required major scalp surgery. It was at that time that he admits that he became addicted to painkillers, and that went on for years.

Then it was in 1993 that he had the big crisis. He was on his Dangerous tour, a world tour. He was facing allegations of child molestation from a 13-year-old boy. There was this encroaching criminal proceeding, and that`s when he checked himself into rehab.

But there are a lot of people who think that, after that was settled for an undisclosed sum of many, many millions of dollars and never went to court, that he remained an addict up to the final day of his life.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: : And again, I cite not just Brian Oxman, the former Jackson family attorney, who said that he saw it and he warned the family, but also the prescription bills. And...

DIMOND: And the testimony at the trials, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And many reports that this man -- and anybody who was at the Jackson trial.

DIMOND: Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You can ask my colleague...

POLITAN: Yes, absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: He looked out of it quite often.

POLITAN: Yes, and I want to bring Michael Cardoza in here.

Michael, do you think Michael Jackson, all these legal troubles and lawsuits and getting indicted, was he a target? Is that why he ends up in court all the time? Or did he bring it on himself?

MICHAEL CARDOZA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, in a certain sense, absolutely, he was a target. He was a very gifted artist, very public, obviously, and then you had the allegations of child molestation.

So, anybody that sent their child over there, some might think, gee, they`re sending them over to make Michael to a victim in the case. And I think that`s exactly what happened in Santa Barbara. I think it was proved clearly that those allegations were false, as witnessed by the jury verdict of "not guilty" in that case.

But did Michael bring it on himself? In a certain level, absolutely, he did. He knew that the allegations were child molestation. He knew he was a target for that. Yet, he persisted in bringing children over to Neverland. Did he have a right to do that? Absolutely. Should he have said...

POLITAN: But it may not have been the smartest move.

CARDOZA: Probably not, but do it a smart way. I mean, always have people around. So did he do it the smart way? No, I don`t think so. And did he bring it on himself? Yes.

POLITAN: Lisa Bloom, he`s found not guilty. Yet, when we talk about Michael Jackson, we always bring it up again. Why -- why do we do that?

BLOOM: Well, first, full disclosure: my mother and I represented the first child who initially sued Michael Jackson for child molestation. That case resulted in a $20 million-plus settlement. That`s been revealed publicly now. So, I don`t know if anyone`s going to say that that was unfounded.

And with regard to the criminal trial, yes, he was acquitted on all charges. But in that trial, there were other children who came forward and testified that Michael Jackson had molested them. So, these were allegations that swirled around him all of his life.

I just want to add, with regard to the lawsuits, you know, most of the cases against him were much less interesting than child molestation. They were ordinary business cases where Michael Jackson simply refused to pay his bills. And so, people had to sue him. And he was sued over and over again, and one of his defenses was, "I was under the influence of drugs..."

POLITAN: But Lisa -- Lisa...

BLOOM: "... I didn`t know what I was signing."

POLITAN: Everyone stay there. Much more on Michael Jackson`s controversial life cut short, as fans everywhere gather to celebrate his legacy.








MICHAEL JACKSON: There have been many disgusting statements made recently concerning allegations of improper conduct on my part. These statements about me are totally false. Don`t treat me like a criminal. I am innocent.


POLITAN: We`re back talking about the scandals that tormented Michael Jackson over the course of his short life, from legal and financial woes to his personal, emotional struggles. And I want to bring back in Diane Dimond on all of this.

Diane, talk about, how about the fans and their response to Michael Jackson? You were at the trial. Tell us about your personal interaction and perspective of the fans of Michael Jackson.

DIMOND: Well, you know, I`ve been covering this story for so long, since way back in 1993, that I was not one of their favorites. Let me put it that way. I`m still not one of their favorites, as I read my e-mails on my Web site.

But they are rabidly devoted to Michael Jackson, and not just here in America, not just in Santa Maria, California. He is wildly popular and always remained wildly popular in countries like Norway and Germany and the U.K. and Japan. He`s huge in Japan. He once did a little event where he didn`t even have to go sing. He just had to stand in a room in Japan, and they paid him mega bucks just to let people touch him.

POLITAN: Unbelievable. Unbelievable.

Now, over the years, Michael Jackson continued to deny rampant rumors of a very apparent use of plastic surgery. The changes to his face were stark and sometimes shocking and led many of us to speculate that this had become a full-on addiction. Jane Velez-Mitchell, was this man addicted to plastic surgery?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think he was addicted to a lot of things. And I say that as a recovering alcoholic myself with 14 years of sobriety. We can -- we can recognize each other. He was addicted to plastic surgery. He was addicted to altering his features and his body, even his skin color. He said he had vitiligo, but according to a lot of other claims, there are people who say he went to a doctor to the stars, not only for facial reconstruction, but also for skin lightening.

So, he had that addiction, and I certainly believe he had a drug addiction. I interviewed people while I was covering the Jackson trial, who said that they were hired to wean him off drugs. And they were suing him because he hadn`t paid.

He was also addicted to not paying people. All the lawsuits, I would say 80 percent of them are people who did not get paid by him, whether it`s the pharmacy, the doctor who was trying to wean him off, the business manager, also for flaking out on concert appearances. That was the lawsuit that happened before the criminal trial, was that he was supposed to show up for this mega world tour and didn`t do so.

POLITAN: Unbelievable.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So, he had a lot of problems. But nevertheless, he was a genius.

POLITAN: Stuart Backerman, how about Michael Jackson when he`s off the stage and he`s behind the scene? Who was this man? Stuart?

BACKERMAN: I`ve seen him in the greatest space. I`ll never forget the time that we had a charity event at Neverland. And at the end of the day, we were in a big tent, and his 45th birthday had happened the week before. A big cake was rolled out. Aaron Carter and Nick Carter started a big food fight. And then the whole crowd of about 90 people in this tent were throwing food all over the place.

And I saw Michael squealing away, and I remember thinking to myself, you know, he`s so happy now. It`s such a beautiful thing. And then on the other hand, I`ve seen him, you know, tormented.

POLITAN: Sure. And really, you talk about two different Michael Jacksons.

Everyone, sit tight. More coverage to come, including what happens to Michael Jackson`s three children. Some mighty legal battles still ahead.


POLITAN: A special ISSUES report, "Remembering an Icon," Michael Jackson dead at 50. Family, friends and fans worldwide come to grips with the seemingly out-of-nowhere death of the "King of Pop."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He always wanted to be the best.

PEOPLE: M.J.! M.J.! M.J.!

POLITAN: Will the autopsy clear-up rumors of drugs and foul play? And what will happen to his kids? We`ll answer those questions and examine the controversial but always entertaining life of Michael Jackson.

The sudden death of the "King of Pop" Michael Jackson had stunned and saddened the world. Perhaps the most affected, the music icon`s own children...

[VIDEO GAP HN261930 00:43 to 04:23]

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I have to look at your application...


BLOOM: ... who really has been there and been a presence in the children`s lives?

And in addition, the court`s going to talk to the two oldest children and get their input as to who they want to be with.

POLITAN: They`re 11 and 12 now.

BLOOM: They`ll be asked. They`re old enough to given an opinion on it.

POLITAN: All right. Jim Moret, I mean, these children we really haven`t got to know them at all. Michael Jackson, if he did one great thing as a father it was really to shield and protect these children from the media, because I know nothing about these kids.

JIM MORET, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "INSIDE EDITION": I know. You really don`t even know what they look like. They`ve been in masks when they`ve been taken out in public. I mean, you feel sort of sorry for them in the sense that they have been reclusive like their father.

I think that may have been out of necessity, he certainly was a good enough target that he had every right to be concerned...


MORET: ... but I have to agree with Lisa, that that Katherine has always expressed...


MORET: ...and taken an active role in these children`s lives as she had in all of her kids` lives. And it may be in the best interests, certainly, to keep the three of them together and most probably to give them to Katherine.

POLITAN: All right Jane, we talked about Michael Jackson and you talk about his troubled upbringing. Could that be relevant do you think...

[VIDEO GAP hn06261930 05:43 to 10:15]

[VIDEO GAP hn06261940 00:00 to 07:33]

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN HOST: ... he had feminine qualities. He was a middle-aged man but he acted like a child. He was African-American and yet he became whiter and whiter over the years. He was trying to do with his own body what he was doing on the videos...

POLITAN: What a great observation, Jane. What a great observation.

Diane Dimond, how about the legal legacy versus of musical legacy, which is stronger?

DIANE DIMOND, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Oh, the musical legacy, without a doubt. But the legal one is very intrigue and has been for a long time; very shrouded in secrecy and mystery. And I think I`m afraid in his death, the legalities of his life will go on and on, the custody fight for his children, the unraveling of the debt that he owed.

And there were some entrepreneurs that came in to restructure his debt and get him back on the concert stage so they could pay off his debt. And things were looking up for him when this terrible event happened. So, how do they get remunerated for the things that they did? They may go back to the courtroom.

So, the legal one will go on, but it`s the musical one we`ll really remember.

POLITAN: Absolutely. Michael Jackson`s album "Thriller" became an international sensation. It spent 37 weeks at number one. The video directed by John Landis was so popular MTV aired it twice an hour due to popular demand.

Let`s take a look at it.




POLITAN: What a video. What a video. Hey, Lisa bloom, I know you`re a legal expert and a legal analyst, but where were you? Where were you when "Thriller" was out? You were watching. You were dancing. That`s what you`re going to remember, aren`t you?

BLOOM: Absolutely. Absolutely. That was the biggest club song at the time.

And you know, Vinnie, I`ve traveled all over the world, too, and Michael Jackson is who you see on t-shirts when you`re in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia. I mean, I think he is the biggest star in the world. I don`t know anybody else who comes close when you think about worldwide.

He`s had such an appeal from the "Thriller" album and all of the other music that he`s done. Kids all over the world try to emulate his dance moves, unsuccessfully just like I tried.

DIMOND: So did you, Lisa.

POLITAN: (INAUDIBLE) Alan Light, where does Michael Jackson stack up in the world of icons, the Elvis`s, the Beatles, the Sinatras of the world?

ALAN LIGHT, MUSIC JOURNALIST: You`ve sort of named the only company that you can possibly put him in.

Michael Jackson again, redefined an era and what music meant. There was the combination of this incredible gift, this incredible talent with this overpowering sense of ambition.

Knowing what to do with that talent, what`s so striking looking at those videos is how incredibly savvy and aware he is of every move, that he nails every step, that the white socks were there so you could see his feet and see his movements that much clearer.

And what Lisa was just saying, I don`t think there`s any other figure who around the world ever meant what Michael Jackson meant. Any corner of the world, and he was very aware of that.

POLITAN: All over the globe. Thanks everyone. Final thoughts on the passing of an American icon when we return.


POLITAN: Say what you will about Michael Jackson, but one thing is certain. He was larger than life. His music changed the entire industry and his moonwalk revolutionized dance.

No matter how much controversy surrounded his life and now his death, we`ll always have the indisputable numbers: four decades, 13 number one hits, 13 Grammies, the highest-selling album of all time. Michael Jackson was a legend.

Let`s take a minute to remember his legacy.



MICHAEL JACKSON, POP STAR: I love you. I really do. You have to know that. I love you so much. Really. From the bottom of my heart.


POLITAN: I want to thank all my guests for joining me tonight. I`m Vinnie Politan, filling in for Jane Velez-Mitchell. She will be back Monday. Thanks for watching ISSUES on HLN.