Return to Transcripts main page

Nancy Grace

Coroner Defers Jackson Cause of Death

Aired June 26, 2009 - 20:00   ET


JEAN CASAREZ, GUEST HOST: Breaking news tonight, the mystery surrounding the sudden death of music icon Michael Jackson, the king of pop rushed to the emergency room after collapsing at his $100,000-a-month rental home near Beverly Hills. For more than one hour, doctors at UCLA Medical Center tried desperately to revive him, but at 2:26 PM local time, Jackson was pronounced dead.

As we go to air tonight, the county coroner announces more tests are necessary to determine the cause of death. We do learn Jackson taking numerous prescription drugs, reported to include anti-anxiety medications and for painkillers Demerol. The coroner huddling with Jackson`s family following the autopsy behind closed doors at a secret location. The car of Jackson`s personal doctor has been seized, believed to be filled with medication connected to the investigation, that doctor with the pop star when he collapsed. Los Angeles authorities confirm a full-scale investigation into Jackson`s death is under way.

And also tonight, we have obtained the stunning 911 call. While authorities investigate whether drugs played a role in Jackson`s death, questions swirling about his fortune, mountain of debt, and more importantly, custody of his three children. Tonight, music icon Michael Jackson dead at 50.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The panicked 911 call from Michael Jackson`s home yesterday, telling the ambulance to hurry, Michael Jackson was not breathing.

911 OPERATOR: Fire paramedic 33. What`s the address of your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. I need to -- I need an ambulance at soon as possible, sir.

911 OPERATOR: OK, sir. What`s your address?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s 100 North Carrollwood Drive, Los Angeles, California, 90077.

911 OPERATOR: Carrollwood?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Carrollwood Drive, yes.

911 OPERATOR: OK, sir. What`s the phone number you`re calling from?

(INAUDIBLE) exactly happened?

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

911 OPERATOR: OK. OK. How old is he?

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

911 OPERATOR: Fifty? OK. He`s unconscious? He`s not breathing?

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

911 OPERATOR: OK. And he`s not conscious, either. He`s not breathing.

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

911 OPERATOR: OK. All right. Do you have him -- is he on the floor? Where`s he at right now?

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

911 OPERATOR: OK. Let`s get him on the floor.


911 OPERATOR: OK. Let`s get him down to the floor. I`m going to help you with CPR right now, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need them to get here (INAUDIBLE)

911 OPERATOR: Yes, we`re already on our way there. We`re already on our way. Did anybody see him...

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

911 OPERATOR: Oh, you have a doctor there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, but he`s not responding to anything, to no -- no -- he`s not responding to CPR or anything.

911 OPERATOR: Oh, OK. Well, we`re on our way there. If you guys are doing CPR and are instructed by a doctor, he has a higher authority than me, and he`s there on the scene. Did anybody witness what happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, just the doctor, sir. The doctor`s been the only one here.

911 OPERATOR: OK. So did the doctor see what happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doctor, did you see what happened, sir? Sir, if you just -- if you can please...

911 OPERATOR: We`re on our way. We`re on our way. I`m just passing these questions on to my paramedics while they`re on the way there, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir. He`s pumping. He`s pumping his chest, but he`s not responding to anything, sir. Please...

911 OPERATOR: OK, OK. We`re on our way. We`re less than a mile away and we`ll be there shortly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir. Thank you.

911 OPERATOR: OK, sir. Call us back if you need any help.



CASAREZ: Good evening. I`m Jean Casarez of the legal network In Session, in for Nancy Grace. Thank you so much for joining us today. The mystery surrounding the sudden death of international music superstar Michael Jackson.


JERMAINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON`S BROTHER: My brother, the legendary king of pop, Michael Jackson, passed away on Thursday, June 25th, 2009, at 2:26 PM. It is believed he suffered cardiac arrest in his home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve seen rumors about Jackson`s health taking center stage. He was in and out of hospitals and extremely frail and thin. Former Jackson family attorney Brian Oxman said he doesn`t want to place blame but he felt the writing was on the wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cannot imagine that we would be here after all the warnings, after all of the signs.

BRIAN OXMAN, FORMER JACKSON FAMILY ATTORNEY: I have said that if this is the result, that one day Michael Jackson had an experience like Anna Nicole Smith, I was going to speak up very loud. I know that there will be repercussions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While Michael Jackson`s fans are trying to absorb the news of his death, there are some issues that cannot wait, especially legal ones. Who will raise their three children? Debbie Rowe is the mother of the Prince Michael and one (ph) and Paris. It`s been reported that she gave up parental rights after getting a multi-million-dollar settlement. The Web site TMZ is reporting that that`s not true and said that Debbie Rowe could get custody of the two kids, if she wants that.

MICHAEL JACKSON: This is it. I mean, this is really it. This is the final -- this is the final curtain call. I love you. I really do. You have to know that. I love you so much, really, from the bottom of my heart.


CASAREZ: The coroner`s office has just released some initial information on that autopsy. Let`s listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m here to announce that the coroner has concluded the autopsy for Mr. Michael Jackson. The cause of death has been deferred, which means that the medical examiner has ordered additional testing, such as toxicology and other studies. Those tests we anticipate will take approximately four to six additional weeks to complete. At that time, once those test results have been completed, we anticipate being able to close the case and issuing a final cause of death.

There was no indication of any external trauma or any indication of foul play on the body of Mr. Jackson. And the Los Angeles Police Department has requested that a security hold be placed on the investigation of Mr. Jackson, so there is an extremely limited amount of information that we will be able to discuss about the case.


CASAREZ: Let`s go out to a very, very special guest tonight. We have Anthony Hernandez with us. He is the director of the Los Angeles Department of the Coroner, live in Los Angeles. Sir, thank you so much for joining us. First off, how long did that autopsy take today?

ANTHONY HERNANDEZ, DIR., L.A. DEPT. OF CORONER (via telephone): The autopsy took approximately three hours. It started -- after preparation, it started right around 10:00 o`clock this morning and ended at 1:00 PM this afternoon.

CASAREZ: Who was in the room while the autopsy was taking place, besides the chief medical examiner?

HERNANDEZ: Basically, the two physicians, the two forensic pathologists who were responsible for conducting the autopsy. And this is the actual chief medical examiner of county of Los Angeles, Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran, and also his assistant chief, which is Dr. Christopher Rogers (ph). In addition, there was other assistants in the room, but these were the two primaries conducting the autopsy.

CASAREZ: Right. Was the family of Michael Jackson in the coroner`s office building during the time the autopsy was done?

HERNANDEZ: No. That was not the case.

CASAREZ: That was not the case. Where is the body at this current time right now?

HERNANDEZ: At this time, I`m really not sure where the body may be because it may or may not have been released at this point. And the reason I say that is it`s contingent upon whether arrangements have been made between the family`s selected funeral home and their arrangements with our transportation unit. So me not being actually down there to know if anything has transpired, it`s difficult for me to make a comment on. But that`s what has to happen in order for that event to take place.

CASAREZ: Sure. Mr. Hernandez -- I`m sorry -- is three hours a normal length of time for an autopsy? And can you just give us sort of a cursory look at what was done during that autopsy?

HERNANDEZ: Yes. Three hours is not an unusual amount of time. Basically, what the doctors were looking for at this particular point are two different things. They`re doing an invasive procedure into the body to make a determination as to any physical findings that they may see while they`re making this invasive procedure. And at the same time, they may be collecting specimens from various parts of the body, whether it be tissue or organs, so those tissues and organs or specimens can be collected for further examination.

CASAREZ: The cause of death -- we thought there was going to be an initial cause of death, but it was deferred. Why?

HERNANDEZ: Deferred means basically one thing. In the initial process of conducting the physical part of the autopsy, which is the invasive procedure, no clear findings of any trauma were found. And I think we -- in your earlier spot there, we had Chief Harvey (ph) emphasize the fact that once the physical part of this autopsy was completed, they were unable to at least pinpoint from that perspective anything that might lead to any kind of trauma or serious physical defect that might give some kind of indicator to the cause of death.

CASAREZ: We`ve heard from so many experts that cardiac arrest must have occurred. Can`t you see that during an autopsy to then determine an initial -- at least an initial cause of death?

HERNANDEZ: Yes, but cardiac arrest has an underlying cause. Cardiac arrest can happen from a different number of things. Initially, you can look at -- a physician can look at a case and look at the heart. The first thing they`re going to see is whether the heart was enlarged. If the heart is enlarged, it`s going to give an indicator that the heart was overworking, meaning that there could have been some coronary occlusion or something that was blocking the blood flow and making this heart work at an accelerated rate, and which could be a suspecting or a leading factor in looking at a heart as -- for natural causes, such as coronary occlusion is one of the primary suspects in those kind of cases.

CASAREZ: Mr. Hernandez, it was also announced that a security hold is going to be taking place on the investigation. What does that mean? And why is that happening?

HERNANDEZ: Security hold is in place now and has been since the onset of the case. And basically, it`s a portion of California law under 62-54 F of the government code that basically permits law enforcement agencies to ask coroner`s offices such as ours to withhold specific and detailed investigatory information while they`re conducting their own investigation on their side of the fence.

CASAREZ: Mr. Hernandez, what did you specifically take for testing for toxicology purposes?

HERNANDEZ: We take a number of different tissues for different reasons, and it could be everything from the brain all the way down to liver portions and spleen portions, lung, portions of the heart. And the list can be extensive. And we`re looking at all of these to see what kind of readings we might get from them at a later time, once they go into the toxicology.



MICHAEL JACKSON: I`ll be performing the songs my fans want to hear. This is it. I mean, this is really it. This is the final -- this is the final curtain call, OK? And I`ll see you in July.


CASAREZ: What you just looked at on that screen, Michael Jackson talking to his fans, that was three months ago, March of 2009. He was addressing the crowds about his reunion concert, the concerts he was going to have in London. They were set to begin in July. He was training for them. And now we are mourning the loss of such an international superstar.

I`m Jean Casarez of the legal network In Session, in for Nancy Grace. Now, let`s go straight out to the scene. Paul Vercammen, CNN producer, who is live at the coroner`s office. You know, Paul, it was just a little bit over 24 hours ago that we learned that Michael Jackson was dead. Go with us again what happened in those initial hours and even yesterday morning. Who saw him alive yesterday morning, Paul, anyone?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN PRODUCER: Well, that`s a great question because, Jean, as you may have seen from the video, that`s a sprawling mansion there in Bel-Air, with multiple rooms and all sorts of places where someone could sort of lose himself, if you will, in that house. So we don`t know if someone was with Michael Jackson when he was alive just shortly before he was found not breathing in another room or if he sort of disappeared and went off on his own. That`s a key question in this investigation.

So what happened after that? Michael Jackson is in full cardiac arrest. His personal doctor, among others, are trying to revive him. The 911 call goes out. This is all about 12:30 West Coast time. Takes about 45 minutes or so before they finally get him over to the hospital, which is only about five minutes and two miles away. For an hour, they feverishly work on reviving Michael Jackson, attempting to bring him back to life, if you will. He`s in a coma. And after an hour of trying, they finally pronounce him dead there at about 2:30 West Coast time at the hospital. So that was the timeline leading up to Michael Jackson inevitably being pronounced dead, Jean.

CASAREZ: You know, the family -- Marlon Jackson, I believe -- has said that Michael wasn`t feeling well Wednesday night. Do we know at all what symptoms he had that evening?

VERCAMMEN: No, we do not. We know that he reportedly had a rehearsal in Los Angeles as he was ramping up for that tour and wasn`t at his best. I do want to know -- one thing that came out of the coroner`s press conference this afternoon, which I thought was sort of interesting. The investigator came out and said that Michael Jackson was taking prescription medication. He would not be specific about what that medication was or is. But undoubtedly, that`s going to be a key part of this investigation.

CASAREZ: You`re exactly right, Paul. And when I heard that, I said to everyone I was around, all the producers here, this is the first time that I have heard confirmation from an official source that he was taking prescription drugs because I think even his manager has said that he had not seen him take drugs, even prescription drugs.

Let`s go out to Jared Shapiro, executive editor of "Life & Style Weekly." I believe that you know or believe he was taking prescription drugs. What are you reporting in "Life & Style Weekly"?

JARED SHAPIRO, "LIFE & STYLE WEEKLY": That`s correct. We`re reporting Demerol, first of all, which is a major painkiller, very dangerous, especially if abused. We`re also reporting Zoloft and Xanax. And we`ve got four others that we`re going to actually save for the magazine when we come out. But we`re reporter it was a cocktail of seven different drugs that Michael had been taking.

CASAREZ: Now, what about that morning? Is there any evidence or anything that you know that he took specifically Thursday, yesterday morning?

SHAPIRO: There are rumors out there that it was a lethal dose, possibly Demerol, which is very similar to morphine. He was in serious pain. This is someone who was very weak and he was taking one drug for the pain and one drug for the anxiety, and then five other drugs to counter what those drugs were doing. And it was on and on and on.

And we`ve seen it before with celebrities. We`ve seen it with Anna Nicole Smith. We`ve seen it with Heath Ledger. They have an insatiable appetite and they get what they want. And if one doctor won`t prescribe it, another will.

CASAREZ: Let`s go to Kara Finnstrom, CNN correspondent. She is at the home that Michael Jackson was renting, living in, a huge, huge mansion. Kara, we are in the middle of a death investigation right now. What have you seen out there as far as investigators going in and taking out evidence at all as part of this investigation?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jean, the largest piece of evidence that they took from this Holmby Hills home late last night -- we watched them bring in a tow truck and take out a BMW which we have since learned actually belongs to the sister of his personal physician. And detectives have told us that they are -- took that car, they`ve impounded it, because they believe it may contain certain types of medications pertinent to their investigation.


CASAREZ: I`m Jean Casarez of the legal network In Session, in for Nancy Grace tonight. Such a tragedy of an American superstar. You listen to his music, it just peps you up. You get into the groove. And now we have to look at the legal questions. We are mourning his death.

I want to go out to Brad Lamm. He is a certified interventionist. The issue of drugs has come up. It is widely reported that he took drugs. It was confirmed, prescription drugs, by the L.A. coroner`s office. Is this a death that possibly could have been prevented?

BRAD LAMM, INTERVENTIONIST: Absolutely. And what we`ve seen is this guy break down over 20 years, mentally and physically. And the entire family and even the nation has stood by and watched him sort of disintegrate right in front of our eyes. It`s what a lot of families face, wondering, When do we step in? Can we step in? Can we step in and help somebody even if it`s prescription drugs? There are plenty of doctors who will give you whatever you need to help you get through the day, and it kills a lot of people.

And even as the reports come out now, we`re going to see the toxicology results confirm what I`ve seen for a long time with so many clients is prescription drugs kill, and they kill just the way street drugs do.

CASAREZ: Let`s go out to the attorney Gloria Allred, victims` rights attorney out of southern California. She filed a complaint to take Michael Jackson`s children away from him in the past. Joe Lawless, defense attorney, author of "Prosecutorial Misconduct," and Lauren Lake, defense attorney.

To Gloria Allred. When you look at an enabling situation -- we saw Anna Nicole Smith. We watched that. We went through that case bit by bit. We saw someone standing by her side that has now been charged in California felony courts with pharmacy shopping. Could criminal charges result from this death investigation, do you think?

GLORIA ALLRED, VICTIMS` RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, it depends. It depends on what he was being prescribed, who was prescribing it, whether it should have been prescribed, whether there was abuse. I mean, really, we have to wait for the facts. We just can`t make a conclusion. But I guess anything is possible. We don`t know whether Michael Jackson went prescription shopping, for example. We don`t know if doctors knew that he had prescriptions elsewhere. We`ll have to wait and find out.



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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 50. OK. He`s unconscious, he`s not breathing?

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. He`s not conscious either.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. All right. Do -- is he on the floor? Where is he at right now?

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

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Let`s get him down to the floor. I`ll help you with CPR right now. OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need him to get.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re on our way there.

CRAIG HARVEY, LA COUNTY CORONER`S OFFICE: Well, we know he was taking some prescription medications.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) if it was drugs affecting him?

HARVEY: I can`t comment on that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that something that will come out in toxicology?

HARVEY: It will all be in the final autopsy report when it`s available for release.


JEAN CASAREZ, GUEST HOST: I`m Jean Casarez of the legal network, "In Session," in for Nancy Grace.

You just heard an excerpt of the 911 call already released today. Let`s go straight out to Natisha Lance, NANCY GRACE producer. She is standing live in Los Angeles at the coroner`s office.

Natisha, what is the scene like right now where you are, and do we know where Michael Jackson`s family is and also his body?

NATISHA LANCE, NANCY GRACE PRODUCER, ON LOCATION OUTSIDE CORONER`S OFFICE: Well, the scene has quieted down quite a bit, Jean. Earlier today there were lots of people out here. They had signs saying "honk for the king of pop." They were also standing by very closely when the coroner was coming out and giving their updates on what was going on with the autopsy report.

A lot of fans of Michael Jackson. Very emotional, singing songs as well as wanting to hear the latest information.

Now as far as the Jackson family, we haven`t heard much about what their location is at this time. We do know that a representative from the coroner`s office went to go meet with the Jackson family. You hear the honking behind me still. But representatives from the coroner`s office did go meet with the Jackson family after the preliminary autopsy was released.

I am told that the Jackson family can at any time come pick up Michael Jackson`s body. It has been released to them. They do have to get it signed over to a mortuary, that is between the hours of 6:00 and 12:00 midnight local time. But as we have seen from the statement that had been released by the Jackson family, obviously, all of them are very emotional and very distraught over the loss of their brother, son and uncle.

CASAREZ: So very, very shocking. And Natisha, I`m sure you know according to California law a body is released to next of kin, and according to law, that would be an adult child. If there is not an adult child, as there is not, then it would be Michael Jackson`s parents.

Let`s go out to Jo Kwon, KABC 790 AM Talk Radio out of Los Angeles. You know, Jo, there is -- are still so many question that are unanswered. First of all, who saw Michael Jackson Thursday morning? That is a huge home, it is a mansion. Who saw him alive that morning?

JO KWON, KABC 790 TALK RADIO, ON LOCATION OUTSIDE CORONER`S OFFICE: You know what`s known is that he was with a couple of bodyguards. His private physician was there. And whoever made that 911 call, we know it wasn`t the doctor, it was possibly a bodyguard. So those were the people that were with him when he collapsed or stopped breathing.

CASAREZ: OK. To Jerry Shapiro, executive director, "Life and Style Weekly", you are reporting that Michael Jackson was taking what you call a cocktail of drugs. What do you know about the car that was towed away from the home that Michael Jackson was staying in?

JARED SHAPIRO, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, LIFE AND STYLE WEEKLY, COVERING STORY: It`s his doctor, Dr. Murray. It`s a private doctor that`s been staying him, and just one thing to think about here, is if you`re not sick, why do you have a doctor staying with you? I don`t think Michael Jackson was in a great state of mind physically or mentally, and that`s kind of what, I think, is bothering Brian Oxman, the spokesperson for the family and a lot of people around the Jacksons.

CASAREZ: All right. And CNN has not confirmed the name of the actual doctor, personal physician, as it is referred to in the 911 phone call.

Out to Dr. Janet Taylor, MD. Dr. Taylor, Michael Jackson was preparing to start a tour. He was getting into shape, he was having rehearsals. He may have been out of shape. He`s 50 years old. Isn`t it normal to have a doctor paying close attention to an international superstar as they are preparing for this?

DR. JANET TAYLOR, PSYCHIATRIST: Well, I think absolutely. He would have the resources to have someone who can make sure that he can get into shape. But I think it`s important to remember that the exact cause of death has not been established. And so until the toxicology comes, everything else is speculation. But he had the resources to have a private doctor with him.

CASAREZ: All right. To Dr. Marty Makary, physician, professor of public health, Johns Hopkins. Brad Lamm, a certified interventionist, has talked about enabling and drug combinations. When you look at Demerol, Zoloft, Xanax, combinations like that, are those drugs seriously an emergency situation when you mix them?

DR. MARTY MAKARY, PHYSICIAN, PROF. OF PUBLIC HEALTH, JOHNS HOPKINS: Absolutely. But really, the key player, Jean, here is Demerol. Demerol is a really addictive drug that when you take it you start breathing slowly. Taken at higher doses and you`ll just plain stop breathing.

And you add to that this rumor that he may have had this condition called Alpha-1-anti-trypsin deficiency, a condition that affects your lungs like smokers get, and the two of those together may have potentially caused something major to go on here.

CASAREZ: To Brad Lamm, certified interventionist, there are report that`s as part of the death investigation they have taken prescriptions out of the home.


CASAREZ: Even out of the car that was towed away from the home that Michael Jackson was staying in. What does that tell you?

LAMM: Well, it tells us that at least there were some drugs present. And one thing I think that`s also significant is these opiate class of drugs that we`ve been talking about are -- the body absorbs them and moves them through the liver. So any change in liver function can have a real change in how the body processes a drug.

So how we use it yesterday can change the way it`s -- it affects our body today. So it`s often these cases where we see overdoses, it`s changes in the body chemistry too will result in unexpected, unexpected situation.

CASAREZ: All right. To Joe Lawless, defense attorney, author of "Prosecutorial Misconduct" out of Philadelphia, good to see you. When you think about enabling and we don`t know all the facts, but we`ve gone through Anna Nicole Smith, there is not such a prominent person as there was in that case next to Michael Jackson, but we`re talking about reckless conduct here. Explain that.

JOE LAWLESS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY, AUTHOR OF "PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT": Well, enabling is allowing someone to do something that you know is not in their best interest because out of whatever feeling you have for them, kindness, love, some feeling of warmth, you don`t want to say no to them.

And what enabling is not saying no to someone when you really should. And if Michael Jackson was surrounded by people who were encouraging him, tolerating abuse of prescription drugs or even just turning a blind eye when he did it, that`s not helping Michael Jackson.

But what`s more important is if there was a physician who was regularly attending him who was repeatedly writing prescriptions for drugs that could be used, that could have had an impact on his heart condition or something else, that could go beyond enabling.

And that`s something that I think -- and I think Gloria was right -- we really have to wait for the toxicology results to see what was in his blood stream. To say he was taking a drug cocktail at this point is speculation. It`s really unfair to Michael Jackson and unfair to the physician who may have been attending him.

CASAREZ: But to Lauren Lake, defense attorney, where do you divide the line between a personal responsibility and someone that is possibly, allegedly enabling with those drugs?

LAUREN LAKE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I`ll tell you, the entire situation is so tragic that right now people are in such an uproar, they`re spouting facts and speculations and we can`t draw any lines.

I think as people have reiterated over and over again, and we especially can`t draw them until we see some facts. But when you talk about personal responsibility versus enabling, I think, you have to go past a certain threshold. Were you, or in essence, failing to exercise some duty of care that an ordinary person would do, that it`s in some way negligent, that you are not behaving the way you should?

As Joe said, not telling someone no when you should. And this is just so difficult to figure out right now. We`re all devastated so we want to point fingers and we want answers. But right now we just can`t do that until we get the information.

CASAREZ: That`s right.

Let`s go back out to Kara Finnstrom, CNN correspondent, that is at the home, the central portion of the death investigation that`s going on right now.

Kara, do we have you? I guess we don`t.


CASAREZ: You`re at the home and that is the central focus of this death investigation that`s going on now. Was law enforcement still at the home today?

FINNSTROM: You know, Jean, you`re breaking up a little bit but I think you were asking me about whether detectives were at this home today, and if you take -- well, actually they were just behind me a few moments ago. They`ve just moved.

It was really interesting. Earlier today we were told that -- you know, detectives had pretty wrapped up their onsite investigation and that there was just kind of a security force here to kind of maintain everything. But within the last couple of hours, we have seen detectives going in and out. We counted about five detectives in there at once.

Not sure exactly what they`re doing inside. But again the key piece of evidence they took away from here late last night was a car that has now been linked to the physician which they say they are taking a close look at because they believe it may contain some medications pertinent to their investigation.


CASAREZ: I`m Jean Casarez of the legal network, "In Session," in for Nancy Grace.

One thing we have not touched on yet, and we have to, and it involves the children. Because there is a custody issue. Michael Jackson was their father. He had custody. He had physical custody day in and day out, and they have lost him.

Let us go out to Gloria Allred, victim`s right attorney, out of Los Angeles, California.

Gloria, so much is being said right now and I don`t think anyone knows the answer, about Debbie Rowe, who was the birth mother of two of the three children, that she gave up custody and either lost her rights, her paternal rights, or did not lose her rights.

What do you know about all of this?

GLORIA ALLRED, VICTIM`S RIGHTS ADVOCATE: Well, originally, of course, Michael Jackson argued, Jean, that Debbie Rowe had relinquished her parental rights and that of course is to the older two of the Jackson children.

That -- but then later Debbie Rowe argued that she had not relinquished those parental rights and in fact the court ultimately found she had not relinquished her parental rights. Because at the time that she did relinquish them, her children were not represented by an attorney.

And so it appears she may not have relinquished them. If, in fact, she didn`t, she may seek custody of those two older children. But still that`s not the end of the ball game because those who wish to have custody or guardianship, for example, the grandmother of the children, Katherine, may argue that she shouldn`t get custody because the court still has to decide what`s in the best interest of the children.

And if the -- if it would be a detriment to the children for their mother to have custody, that`s an argument that others may make. If in -- but a younger child, of course, we don`t know who the youngest child`s mother is. It`s a different mother. There, there may be a guardianship proceeding. There, others may seek guardianship.

Again, Mr. Jackson may have indicated in his will who his preference would be for a guardian but that`s not going to be binding on the court. The court will decide what`s in the best interest of all of those children. So we`ll have to see who gets custody and/or guardianship of the three children.

CASAREZ: To Joseph Lawless, prosecutor on misconduct, author, who do you think will gain custody? Do you think there will be a custody fight?

LAWLESS: Jean, I think that`s the saddest part about this whole case. I think the fact that these children have to go through this is really compounding the tragedy. I don`t know who will ultimately get custody of these children because of the complexity that Gloria just pointed out.

The good news is that is that that`s a decision that will ultimately be made by the court, focusing on the best interest of the children. But unfortunately that`s going to be down the road and these kids are going to have to wade through that like every other aspect to this.

CASAREZ: And to Lauren Lake, everyone is saying that they believe that the family of Michael Jackson will want the children. His mother has the children now. It is in the best interest of the child, that`s one of the primary things the court looks at.

Michael Jackson was very public in saying that his father, as he was growing up, actually used some corporal punishment on him. Do you think the court will look at that in determining custody now?

LAKE: The court is going to look at any and all information that`s going to be relative to the best interest of these children. But I will say this. You know, corporal punishment is not against the law. So unless it amounts to, of course, abuse. And so that, to me, I think will be an issue that may be relative. But at the same time, it`s going to be even more relative, who do these children have a bond with?

And how can these three children potentially stay together? The court can`t make Debbie Rowe take custody of a child that`s not biologically hers so if she potentially takes her two, the youngest one is what, just left out in the cold?

This is really going to be problematic for the court to decide, and ultimately I don`t think Joe Jackson`s, you know, issues or Michael`s commentary about him would preclude the court from granting custody to his parents, if they deem that to be in the best interest of the children.

CASAREZ: I want to go back to Gloria Allred. Thank you for giving us such a great legal basis for that decision in California. It`s the first time I`ve heard it. I`ve heard rumor and innuendo, you gave us the facts.

Since Debbie Rowe gave up custody, she signed the papers to give away custody, can it be argued that it`s not in the best interest of the children to go to someone who didn`t want to be a part of their lives?

ALLRED: Well -- but, again, I think the real question is, what is the legal status now? If in fact, for example, she had visitation because she has no relinquished her parental rights, then visitation is a form of custody. Now did she exercise that visitation? We really don`t know. How much visitation has she had or does she have a right to have? We don`t know the answers to those questions.

But I -- Lauren is right, we have to look at a lot of factors. The court will review a lot of factors. The bond that the children have with whomever is seeking custody and/or guardianship, what that guardian and/or person who`s seeking custody, what kind of bond or involvement have they had with the children.

In addition, by the way, the children at age 11 or 12, they`re going to be able to indicate a preference. Some weight will be given to their preference. However, it`s not going to be binding on the court. It will just be a factor.

CASAREZ: To Sheryl McCollum, crime analyst, direct of Cold Case Squad, Pine Lake PD. We`re in the middle of a death investigation right now. What are detectives going to look at?

SHERYL MCCOLLUM, CRIME ANALYST, DIR. OF COLD CASE SQUAD AT PINE LAKE P.D.: They are going to look at what they find in that car, what medications were there, what medications were in the home, and then cross check that with the medication that`s found in Mr. Jackson`s system.

CASAREZ: All right. Let`s go out to a caller very quickly. Erica in Florida, thank you for holding on tonight.

ERICA, CALLER FROM FLORID: Thank you. My heart goes out to the family, and those three precious children. I`m a big fan, myself. Him and Janet are great. My question is, the car that was towed, regardless of who it is -- you know, who the registered owner is, was that the doctor`s means of transportation? And if so, how was he able to vacate the premises? Where did he go and how did he get there?

CASAREZ: And that is a very good question, it is one of so many unanswered questions in this death investigation.

And now, "CNN Heroes."


ANNOUNCER: This is "CNN Heroes."

ALFA DEMMELLASH, COMMUNITY CRUSADER: I was born and raised in Ethiopia. My mom tragically (INAUDIBLE) to a brutal dictatorship. To save up for me to come to America, she started making me beautiful gowns as a way to make extra money and save. Entrepreneurs, they are at the very heart of what the American dream is all about.

My name is Alfa Demmellash and I co-founded an organization that provides business education to women and minority entrepreneurs like my mom. We believe in your dreams and what that makes possible.

We launched a school so that people could go in and really work on the hands-on management side of their business.

What are we going to offer them?


DEMMELLASH: We focus on providing people quality coaching so they can take their products and services and sell it.

ROBIN MUNN, FLORIST: I was thinking about closing, but once I started taking the classes, I found that the fire come back.

SHAWN WHITE, CLOTHING DESIGNER: To know that I can go out in this world and sell clothes, it`s crazy, because I would have never had that insight if it wasn`t for her.

KIM BRATTEN, ARTIST: They put hope back into the community. Now I`ll be able to send my kids to college.

DEMMELLASH: We believe in you, that you`re on the beginning of a journey. This is really for us a place where the American dream can be realized. The ability to become self-reliant, the ability to have hope. That is the fabric of this country. This is something that speaks to people`s dreams. We have to fight for it.

ANNOUNCER: "CNN Heroes" is sponsored by.


CASAREZ: Tonight, music icon and international superstar, Michael Jackson, dead at the age of 50.


JERMAINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON`S BROTHER: My brother, the legendary king of pop, Michael Jackson, passed away on Thursday, June 25th, 2009 at 2:26 p.m.

NANCY GRACE, HOST: Brian Oxman is with us, the longtime Jackson family attorney. Brian, thank you for being with us.

BRIAN OXMAN, JACKSON FAMILY ATTORNEY, OUTSIDE MICHAEL JACKSON`S HOSPITAL (via phone): Oh, Nancy, it is wonderful to talk to you, but I am heartbroken.

GRACE: I think that many, many people are stunned, many of us were stunned at the time he was pronounced not guilty in those molestation charges, but that, now, is of no longer of this earth. It`s between him and God.

Michael Jackson jury handing down a verdict that stunned the nation. Not guilty on all counts. Not guilty on all accounts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people of the state of California, plaintiff versus Michael Joe Jackson, defendant, not guilty -- not , not, not guilty.

GRACE: You go in there, you try the case, you take your lunch, and maybe you lose and for everybody`s that`s been watching the case, as we go to break, I`m having a little crow sandwich on the set tonight and it`s not going to taste good.


CASAREZ: Tonight, let us stop to remember Navy hospital man, Marc Retmier. He was just 19 years old. Hemet, California, a Navy medic, he lost his life in a rocket ambush while giving medical treatment. He loved skateboarding, motor cross, football, swimming and handing out coloring books and candy to local children.

He dreamed of attending Long Beach State College in Long Beach, California, and becoming a doctor. He leaves behind his grieving parents, Stephen and Joy, brothers Matthew and Mason, and grandfather Dale.

Marc Retmier, an American hero.

Thank you so much to all of our guests, to you at home for being with us tonight. See you tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern. Until then, good night, everybody.