Michael Jackson’s family secured temporary custody of the superstar’s children Monday as the first salvos in the legal issues arising from the pop icon’s tragic death began to take shape.
A day after a family lawyer said the Jackson clan would seek custody of the singer’s three children, a judge named the star’s mother Katherine as temporary guardian after approving a petition filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Jackson’s family was also reported to be filing a second petition seeking the right to be named temporary administrators of their son’s estate.
Court officials confirmed a petition relating to Jackson’s assets had been filed but would not go into details.
A lawyer for the family, Londell McMillan, said Sunday the family had not yet seen a copy of the star’s will.
McMillan was appointed amid clear signs the grief-stricken Jackson family was seeking to take control of their most famous member’s affairs.
Members of the musical clan were also expected to meet activist Reverend Al Sharpton at the family compound in Los Angeles on Monday to finalize plans for a fitting memorial for Jackson.
“I’m here to make sure Michael gets in death what he never got in life — he never got credit,” Sharpton said Sunday.
“He was not a freak, he’s a genius,” he said. “He was not somebody who was eccentric, he was innovative and that innovation smashed barriers and he should be given a lot more credit than he’s been given.”
A press conference with Sharpton and Jackson’s father Joe was scheduled for 11:30 am local time (1830 GMT).
Reports have said Jackson’s family is considering a series of simultaneous memorial services around the world for the singer, reflecting the huge global reach of an artist who sold more than 750 million records.
Family members attended an awards show Sunday dedicated to African-American entertainers which became a star-studded celebration of Jackson’s life, featuring an emotional tribute from his sister Janet.
“My entire family wanted to be here tonight, but it was just too painful so they elected me to speak with all of you,” Janet Jackson said.
“I’d just like to say that, to you, Michael is an icon. To us, Michael is family and he will forever live in all of our hearts.”
Meanwhile family attorney McMillan said the family was “closely watching” the progress of the official investigation into Jackson’s death.
The family already has hired a private pathologist who has carried out a second autopsy on Jackson.
Details from Friday’s preliminary examination of Jackson’s body were published in Britain’s The Sun newspaper on Monday after the daily said it had seen a copy of the autopsy report.
According to the paper, pathologists found Jackson’s stomach empty apart from partially-dissolved pills. Jackson’s body was also reported to have weighed only 50.8 kilograms (112 pounds) at the time of his death.
However the Los Angeles County coroner’s office strongly rejected the report, describing parts of it as “totally false.”
“The report that is being published did not come from our office,” said Assistant Chief Ed Winter. “I don’t know where that information came from, or who that information came from.”
Meanwhile lawyers for personal physician Conrad Murray — who was with Jackson in the hours before his death — went on the offensive, with attorney Edward Chernoff insisting his client was blameless.
“There’s nothing in his history, nothing that Dr Murray knew, that would lead him to believe he would go into sudden cardiac arrest or respiratory failure,” Chernoff told CNN Monday.
“There was no red flag available to Dr Murray, which led him to believe he would have died the way he did. It’s still a mystery how he died.”
Speculation has been rife that excessive use of powerful prescription pain killers may have played a role in Jackson’s death, but Chernoff insisted that contrary to news reports, Murray “never prescribed nor administered” two particular drugs — Demerol or Oxycontin — to Jackson.
He also defended how Murray responded to the immediate crisis after Jackson lost consciousness last week, recounting step-by-step the failed effort by the doctor to revive the singer.