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Michael Jackson was responsible for his own health - Kenny Ortega

August 8, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
In the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial, the director who worked with the singer just hours before his death returned to the stand Thursday.

Jurors heard the strongest statement yet to rebut the claim of Katherine Jackson that her son's tour producer, AEG Live, should be held liable for his death.

The questioning intensified after Kenny Ortega, the director for the "This is It" tour, answered a critical question from AEG attorney Marvin Putnam: Who was responsible for Michael Jackson's health?

Ortega replied, "Adults are responsible for their own health. I didn't think he was being very responsible. It was his responsibility, in my opinion."

The defense addressed a list of the plaintiff's claims, including the allegation that AEG execs pressured Jackson.

Question: Did you ever see AEG pressure him in anyway?

Ortega's response: No.

Ortega testified that Jackson and AEG were partners, co-producers, of the show. He told jurors about working with Jackson over 16 years and that he never saw any signs of drug dependency.

He stated that Jackson's illness on June 19 was like nothing he had seen before. He said when he alerted AEG execs to the star's symptoms -- shivering and signs of paranoia -- a meeting with Jackson and his physician, Conrad Murray, was set the next day.

Ortega testified that there, Murray lectured him and told him not to play amateur psychiatrist. He said Jackson himself offered assurances that he was fine.

Three days later, Ortega described a metamorphosis. Jackson was back on stage at his best rehearsal yet.

About who hired the doctor, the defense showed the jury the differences between contracts -- how Ortega's company was hired only by AEG, and how Murray's contract was based on Jackson's approval.

To contest, the Jackson attorney, Brian Panish, zeroed in on the alerts Ortega issued in emails. He pointed out that several staff members were worried about Jackson's health and that Ortega had suggested to execs that they bring in a mental health professional.

Regarding liability, Panish acknowledged Jackson's role, but says, "AEG wants to point the finger at Michael Jackson and Conrad Murray and they accept no responsibility."

The back and forth questioning escalated throughout the day, but Ortega maintained his composure. He was rewarded with applause from the jury.

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