Michael Jackson: Critical Stage

Can The Superstar Beat The Latest Rap?

Ever since superstar Michael Jackson shared the spotlight with the other Jackson Five members, there were always two more Jacksons waiting, just off stage – sharing and reveling in the success of their children.

Now, on the eve of Jackson's trial, his parents, Katherine and Joe Jackson, are holding out hope – and holding their breath.

"I can't sleep at night. I do a lot of praying. I can't talk too much about the case, but I know my son and this is ridiculous," says Katherine Jackson. "We have a lot of wicked people and they know what they're doing. I can't say anything else."

Jackson's parents sat down for an exclusive interview with international interviewer Daphne Barak. 48 Hours obtained the rights to the interview, which was conducted recently at the couple's home in Las Vegas.

Are the Jacksons worried about the outcome in their son's case?

"All I know is, he's a good kid, and he's done right all his life," says Joe Jackson. "And he always treats other people right."

"Quite naturally, being a mother, you're going to worry," says Katherine Jackson. "I'd love to say that justice prevails, but people are wicked and Satan is busy."

The Jacksons have been ordered by the judge in their son's trial not to discuss the case. But they were willing to talk about the son they raised.

"We know our son," says Joe Jackson. "We know he's not a pedophile like some of these newscasters are saying. That is not true."

Joe and Katherine Jackson have been married for 56 years, and it has been quite a ride. Their kids have sold millions of records, and have brought the family both fame and shame.

But the parents remember a time before Michael Jackson was a household name -- in households other than his own.

"When Michael and I used to sit down and watch television, and we used to watch the children in Africa – with flies around their mouth. They were just dying," recalls Katherine Jackson.

"He would sit there with tears streaming down his face, and he said, 'Mother, one day, I'm going to do something about that.' My son would never hurt a child. He loved children too much."

The Jacksons like to talk about old times, when Michael and his siblings were known only for their performances on stage.

How was Michael off stage? "He was shy. When they were young, when company comes, you could say, 'Come on out, boys, and sing for them,' and they didn't want to do it," says Katherine Jackson. "Even the relatives. They were too shy, but you put them on a stage and they would do it."

"But you put him in front of 50,000 people, he's at home," adds Joe Jackson.

But now, Michael Jackson finds himself center stage in a drama nobody would ever want a part in and no parent would ever want to watch.

"When they took him down to jail and I saw them put handcuffs on him. That hurt worse than anything else," says Katherine Jackson.

Those years of investigations, including those very public raids on Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch, have made the Jacksons angry with a prosecutor some critics describe as almost giddy.

"They were jumping up and down, 'We got him. We finally got him.' That was hard for me as a mother, to see how people felt about my son when he's a better person than they are," says Katherine Jackson. "And he's jumping up and down saying something like that. Like my son killed somebody or something."

The Jacksons are reluctant to get into detail about what they think motivates the people attacking their son. They say money is one factor, but not the only one.

"It is racism. It is. Katherine's not going to say it, but we'll say it. It is racism," says Joe Jackson.

Jackson's parents have had to endure all the reports about their son's relationship with children since the 1993 incident, involving a young boy who said Jackson abused him.

If there were rumors, then why didn't Joe Jackson have a father-son conversation with Michael about what was happening?

"Because there's nothing wrong with kids coming over," says Joe Jackson. "He hasn't done nothing wrong, so why should I chastise him about stuff like that? There's nothing wrong! People were bringing kids there – families. Mothers and fathers, and they were bringing their kids there."

But there have been questions about how Michael Jackson was brought up, specifically whether Joe Jackson was too strict with his children.

"In being strict, you were able to control," says Joe Jackson.

"I don't think it was too strict at all," adds Katherine Jackson. "Because where we came from, Gary, Ind., it's the murder capital of the world."

In fact, Joe Jackson says he wouldn't change anything.

"We didn't make no mistakes. We didn't make no mistakes," says Joe Jackson.

"Joe, don't say that," adds Katherine Jackson. "You don't know."

"I don't make no mistakes. I fed them every day. So it was a papa that kept food on the table for them. I did that. I did my part," says Joe Jackson.

But almost everything Michael Jackson does now is fodder for the tabloids and comedians, particularly when he seems to change his appearance. For instance, the evolution of his face is the subject of a Web site animation.

"Do you know how many plastic surgeries are done to the actors and actresses in Hollywood," asks Joe Jackson.

All the stories about his appearance and his bizarre behavior have earned Michael Jackson a nickname no one would want for themselves and no parent would want for their child. "Wacko Jacko" became the shorthand, headline way of referring to Joe and Katherine Jackson's son.

"How could they call him wacko," asks Joe Jackson. "He's sold more records than anybody in history."

"They think he's weird, and people look at him as being wacko," says Katherine Jackson. "He's not that wacko, to be No. 1 in the world."

However, after Jackson dangled his youngest son out a hotel window in 2002, authorities in California wondered if he might be more than Wacko.

Just a few months ago, child welfare officials made a surprise inspection at his ranch to check on the welfare of his children.

Katherine Jackson, the children's grandmother, now says she was also there.

"I went to visit Michael, not knowing that Child Services was there. That was a surprise to me when they told me they were there. I imagine they surprised Michael, too, and everyone else in the house," says Katherine Jackson.

The authorities left the children with their father, but Katherine Jackson is still angry. "It was a horrible feeling, just out thinking they were there, trying to take away my grandchildren," she says. "That's terrible."

It's been a terrible time for the Jacksons since they first heard the charges against their son read out in court.

"It's been difficult all the time, because I know what they're trying to do," says Katherine Jackson. "And I know him, and he does not deserve what's going on."

It is Michael who's being tried, but it's his parents who have already been tested.

" Whatever they're saying out there. They don't know him. They don't even know what they're talking about. But, they have to remember that there's a family out there that loves that person they're lying on and talking about," says Katherine Jackson.

"Especially a mother. And, she has feelings. They should think about what they're doing before they get on television telling the lies. You reap what you sow. What goes around, comes around. People have to be very careful of what they do and say."