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Director Kenny Ortega testifies in Michael Jackson wrongful death trial

July 8, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A key witness took the stand in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial on Monday. Kenny Ortega, the director who worked with Jackson on his comeback tour, says he was very concerned about the pop star's health and he warned promoters about it.

"He wanted to rock the world. He wanted them to know he was back." Those are the words of director Kenny Ortega speaking of Michael Jackson as they collaborated on Jackson's "This Is It" production.

Yet weeks into rehearsals, Ortega said, the star's condition changed.

"Just sort of lost, and a little incoherent. Although we were conversing, and I did ask him questions, and he did answer me, I did feel though that he was not well," Ortega said on September 27, 2011.

Ortega testified in the trial of Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, who is now serving a four-year prison term for causing Jackson's death. Now the director's observations are a cornerstone of Katherine Jackson's lawsuit against tour promoter AEG Live.

In emails to AEG executives, Ortega raised the alarm: Jackson missing rehearsals; that the star was trembling, rambling and obsessive. Ortega said Jackson needed a psychiatrist.

Monday, the Jackson attorney, Brian Panish, first set the scene for the jury, eliciting information about Ortega's work with Jackson for 19 years.

Ortega testified that he was present at a performance when Jackson collapsed in 1995.

Ortega said he didn't recall what caused it, and didn't want to speculate.

Earlier in the day, jurors heard from someone who says he did know about Jackson's problems with pain medication. Testifying in a video deposition, Dr. Stuart Finkelstein said that in 1993 he was called to give Jackson painkiller, that Jackson was suffering from scalp surgery.

"I attempted to give him a shot of Demerol, but his buttocks were so scarred up and abscessed, that the needle almost bent," said Finkelstein.

Finkelstein testified that Jackson appeared to be dependent on meds. Among the factors he cited, Jackson needed more than double the amount of Demerol than a typical patient would need.

Finkelstein says he told his friend who was also working on the tour in 1993, Paul Gongaware, who is now an AEG executive and is named in the Jackson lawsuit.

Finkelstein's statement conflicts with what Gongaware told the jury when he was on the stand. Gongaware testified he knew nothing about Jackson's addiction until the star publicly told fans in 1993.

Ortega will resume testimony Tuesday morning.


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