The death of Michael Jackson

June 26, 2009 1:05:19 PM PDT
What killed him is now the story.

The L.A. Coroner is conducting an autopsy, but we already have a hint of might have caused the 50-year-old Jackson to suffer cardiac arrest.

A senior law enforcement officer - telling ABC News - that Jackson was heavily addicted to the powerful painkiller Oxycontin - and that he received daily doses of another pain killer, Demerol.

And in fact, he was injected with Demoral - 1 hour before he died, said the source.

And it turns out that Jackson's personal doctor was in the house during this time - in fact he lived there.

Meanwhile, the Jackson family's attorney, Brian Oxman, was on Good Morning America today and let loose about his suspicions and red-flag warnings that prescription drug abuse - Jackson was reportedly on at least seven drugs - was killing the star.

"This is not something that has been unexpected because of the medications Michael was under," said Oxman. "This family has been trying for months and months and months to take care of Michael Jackson. The people who had surrounded him have been enabling him. If you think the case with Anna Nicole Smith was an abuse, it's nothing in comparison to what we have seen taking place in Michael Jackson's life.

"And I spoke to family members. I told them if this situation arises when Michael perishes because of medications. And my words were if one day he wakes up and he's dead because of these medications, I will not hold my tongue. I will speak out and I will speak out loud about the over medication of Michael Jackson."

The coroner's report should tell us whether Oxman is speaking the truth. We're also hearing the compelling 9-1-1 tapes, made from Jackson's home as the entertainer was lying on his bed, not breathing.

The saddest part of the Michael Jackson story isn't so much that he died, although that's plenty sad.

But to me, how Jackson lived is far sadder.

That he was incredibly talented, we know. And I won't pretend to be a music critic. But if you "Google" clips of Jackson as a young kid, it's easy to see that he clearly had something special - the way he sang, the way he performed, the euphoria he felt from performing before an audience and a camera.

I said plenty of times last night that I had a hard time working up a heaping helping of sad over Mr. Jackson because of what many considered his clearly unhealthy, inappropriate, and disturbing relationships with young boys.

Yes, he was acquitted of molestation charges in the latest trial. But there are simply too many cases of sexual abuse claims -- and of multi-million dollar, out of court settlements paid to parents of little boys who promised to keep silent in exchange for money -- not to turn anyone's stomach.

His fascination with little boys, his freakish plastic surgery, his unexplainable antics (remember when he held his infant son off the balcony of a hotel in Germany?), his willingness to just shell out millions to quiet parents who seemed to cherish the big bucks more than dignity and justice for their children -- they are all troubling behaviors to say the least.

It's hard to be a parent and take any of the evidence lightly. Having said that, this is a man (and I use the term loosely; not because of his androgynous appearance but because this is a child who never really grew up, and perhaps didn't know how to) who himself was abused in so many ways growing up.

He was the meal ticket for his family's Jackson 5 musical group. He had no real childhood other than performing on stage, recording, and being on the road. There are all sorts of stories about how he was sexually abused as a child - and nothing was done about it. Why mess with a good thing, right?

He may have called himself the "King of Pop," but Michael Jackson long ago lost that title in the eyes of the overwhelming majority of Americans. Polls show that years of child sex abuse allegations took their toll on how the public viewed Jackson.

We saw him grow up - from little boy, to man-child, to Peter Pan. His "Neverland" ranch in the hills above Santa Barbara was Exhibit A in his public quest for eternal youth. His freakish plastic surgeries were Exhibits B through Z. He was an adorable kid, a handsome young man. But in his effort to stay young, he turned himself into something less-than-human. And it's hard to consider any of it as healthy - physically or psychologically.

And all that money! He blew hundreds of millions.

Like a child.

Our Jim Dolan and Nina Pineda are both in Los Angeles, to cover the story for us, tonight at 11. We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Scott Clark with the night's sports, Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast.

Me? I have the night off. Joe Torres will be sitting my chair and next to Liz Cho, and I hope you tune in tonight at 11, right after 20/20.

BILL RITTER


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