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Debate over Michael Jackson's death clouds his legacy

By the CNN Wire Staff
Pop icon Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009. The debate over his death continues two years later.
Pop icon Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009. The debate over his death continues two years later.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Michael Jackson died June 25, 2009, of a drug overdose
  • His personal doctor is charged with administering the fatal dose
  • Several other lawsuits have been filed regarding his death
  • There have also been many attempts to promote and capitalize on his legacy

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Two years after his death, music legend and celebrity icon Michael Jackson's legacy remains clouded by the debate over how he died and who, if anyone, is to blame.

A Los Angeles coroner ruled that a surgical anesthetic called Propofol killed the then 50-year-old Jackson, in combination with several sedatives found in his blood, on June 25, 2009.

Ever since, there have been ongoing efforts -- from awards to statues to new songs -- to keep his memory, and music, alive. Still, much of the talk about one of the world's most celebrated singers has occurred in courtrooms, centered around a host of cases related to his untimely death.

Authorities claim that his personal doctor, Conrad Murray, administered the fatal dose. He has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the singer's death. The doctor's defense attorney, Ed Chernoff, contends Jackson was "a desperate man in many respects" and gave himself the fatal dose of surgical anesthesia while the doctor was not watching.

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One of Michael's sisters, LaToya Jackson, told CNN's Piers Morgan this week that her brother "told me that they were going to murder him" -- identifying "they" only as "the people involved in his life, the people that were controlling him."

The late singer's father, Joe Jackson, also fingered unidentified individuals in an interview with CNN on Saturday.

"We're striving for justice, because there's more to it than they're claiming," said Joe Jackson, who has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Murray and also said he's still fighting over who controls his son's estate. "There is somebody else involved."

The singer's mother, Katherine Jackson, has filed a lawsuit accusing AEG Live of causing her son's death by pushing him to rehearse for his comeback concerts despite poor health. In the suit, she described Jackson in his last months as "confused, easily frightened, unable to remember, obsessive, and disoriented."

Yet for all the legal entanglements, the last 24 months has also been marked by numerous attempts to celebrate, give new life to and capitalize on the singer's historic career.

According to Forbes, Jackson's estate brought in a whopping $275 million between October 2009 and 2010. The singer's good fortune is due in large part to licensing deals cut by executors of his estate, a surge in sales of his music catalog and the $250 million box office of the Sony Pictures film, "This Is It."

That documentary, focused on the singer's preparations for his world tour, came out within months of his death. Sony was under a contractual obligation with Jackson's estate to not use anything that showed the icon in "a negative light" -- though Pastor ruled that additional, raw footage could be used in Murray's upcoming trial.

In a rare public appearance, two of Jackson's three surviving children -- Prince Michael and Paris -- appeared in January 2010 at the Grammy Awards to help accept a Lifetime Achievement Award on their father's behalf. The singer's music and dance also inspired a Cirque du Soleil show, "Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour."

And for months, there's also been talk about a full-length album entitled "Michael," featuring 10 songs and collaborations with rapper 50 Cent and rocker Lenny Kravitz -- including a duet with Akon that was released online last November.

But not all such Jackson-related efforts have been directly tied to his music.

Mohammed Al Fayed, for instance, helped erect a statue of Jackson to stand outside the stadium of English Premier League football club Fulham, which he owns. The Egyptian-born businessman, who had owned Harrods department store and was a friend of the singer, told fans -- some bemused and others questioning the statue's relevance -- they can "go to hell" if they object.

Also in England (but not the United States), the Discovery Channel planned to broadcast a special early this year featuring a re-enactment of Jackson's autopsy. But the program, "Michael Jackson's Autopsy: What Really Killed Michael Jackson," was dropped before airing after repeated complaints.

Investor Reginald Garcia said this spring that he will use cash from the sale of 130 unpublished photos he had taken of a then-19-year-old Jackson to fund testing of a motor that he claims generates more electricity than it uses.

And this weekend, the King of Pop's signature red and black jacket with "winged shoulders," which he wore during the filming of the iconic "Thriller" music video, was one of several pieces of music memorabilia up for sale at a California auction.

In his interview Saturday with CNN, Joe Jackson touted his plan to further develop his son's dream and build amusement parks -- called "Happyland" -- around the world. (In the same interview, he also publicized his new "Jackson" cologne and vodka, called "Vodka Precious.")

"I'm grieving over Michael," the late singer's father said. "It's going to take me a long time to get over what happened to him."

Katherine Jackson told CNN this past spring that she struggles each day without Michael, even as she cares for his children, whom she has legal custody over.

"There's not a day that passes I don't think about my child, and he should be here right now," his mother said.

 
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