Michael Jackson lawyer attacks promoter as trial nears climax
LOS ANGELES - The promoters of Michael Jackson's last tour were "so excited" about making huge profits that they hired an unfit doctor for the star, his family's lawyer said Tuesday in closing arguments.
As a five-month trial draws to a close, Jackson attorney Brian Panish said the self-styled King of Pop was "an easy target" for AEG Live, which was managing his "This is It" tour starting in London in 2009.
"We may never see the likes of Michael Jackson again," Panish told the 12-member jury in a courtroom in downtown Los Angeles, where the trial opened in April and has seen nearly 60 witnesses and over 800 pieces of evidence.
Jackson died on June 25, 2009 from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol at his rented Holmby Hills mansion outside Los Angeles, where he was rehearsing for the "This is It" shows at London's 02 Arena. He was 50 years old.
Dr. Conrad Murray, a cardiologist, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a criminal trial in 2011 for giving the drug to the "Thriller" star -- who suffered from chronic insomnia -- to help him sleep. He was jailed for four years.
In the civil trial, the singer's mother Katherine Jackson, 83, is seeking massive damages -- her lawyers have cited $1.5 billion in lost income and an unspecified amount for emotional loss and other damages -- for Jackson's death.
She alleges that AEG Live negligently hired an inappropriate and incompetent doctor for her son and missed a series of red flags about his failing health in the run-up to his death.
"They chose not to check anything about Dr. Murray's background .. They chose to run the risk, to make a huge profit, and they lost and they're responsible," he said.
"AEG wanted the King of Pop in their arena in London. They would do whatever it took to get him on stage... They were so excited about how much money they were going to make," he added.
"They knew what they were getting. Now they want to come in and deny it."
Summing up his case, he said Jackson may have been one of the world's most famous entertainers but in his mind he was like "a real-life Peter Pan."
"He was an easy target" for the corporate promoter, long experienced in running tours for some of the biggest acts in the world, he said.
AEG Live counters that it did not sign a contract with Murray, and that a promised $150,000 a month for his services would come from an advance it was making to Jackson, meaning effectively that the star hired his own doctor.
The issue of who hired Murray is crucial to the case, and Panish re-played video clips of AEG Live CEO Randy Philips, in which he told Sky News that Murray was "willing to leave his practice for a very large sum of money.
"So we hired him," said Philips, in what could prove decisive in the jurors' decision-making process.
Panish told the jury they will get a sheet with five key questions, to which they must answer Yes or No, when they retire to consider their verdict, possibly by the end of this week.
The first question asks them whether, in their view, "AEG Live hired Dr Murray," followed by whether "Murray was unfit or incompetent to perform the work for which he was hired."
Others include whether AEG Live "knew or should have known that Dr Murray was unfit or incompetent, and this unfitness or incompetence created a particular risk to others."
AEG Live's lead lawyer, Marvin Putnam, is due to present his side's closing arguments after Panish concludes his summing up.
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