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Michael Jackson trial: Closing arguments focus on AEG liability

September 24, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Opening statements in the high-profile Michael Jackson wrongful death trial began Tuesday, centering on the "King of Pop" and liability for his death.

Interest in the case was so high that the judge moved the proceeding to an auditorium-sized courtroom. In the gallery were two of Jackson's nephews, sister Rebbie and his mother Katherine, who filed the lawsuit against concert promoter AEG Live.

"He believed in the good of others even though people didn't believe in the good of Michael," Jackson attorney Brian Panish said during closing arguments.

Panish made references to the Bible, English history and attempted humor, impersonating an AEG executive. But Panish told the jury that there was nothing funny about what led to Jackson's demise. He argued it was caused by a few factors: the star's dependency on medication when he was stressed; Dr. Conrad Murray, a physician who was broke; and AEG Live, which facilitated a contract to hire Murray.

"There's no question that AEG wanted the 'King of Pop' in their arena in London," said Panish. "They wanted it so badly that they would do whatever it took to get him on stage, and they told that to Dr. [Conrad] Murray. They told Dr. Murray, 'We want you to have everything you can have.' They knew exactly what he offered - an unlimited supply of prescription medications during the time of the pain, stress and anxiety to get Michael Jackson on stage. They knew that."

The jury was led through the verdict form, but their answer to the first question will decide whether they should proceed to other questions: Did AEG hire the doctor?

"They had numerous meetings with Dr. Murray, they called him on the phone, they called him to Michael Jackson's home and they said, 'Stay in your lane Dr. Murray,'" Panish said.

Calling the credibility of AEG executives into question, Panish played select parts of their testimony as they were asked about a series of emails, with each witness saying, "I don't remember."

If jurors believe AEG hired Murray, the jury must answer many other questions, including whether the company exercised reasonable care in supervising the doctor.

About Jackson's habits with medication, the Jackson attorneys concede that the pop idol had a problem, but it only became fatal when money and desperation came into play.

"What is the one thing that changed? AEG and Murray," Panish said.

AEG claims it did not hire Murray, that it was Michael Jackson who initially chose Murray to be his doctor and that it was the star's own negligence that contributed to his death.

If the jurors find that AEG was liable for Michael Jackson's death, attorneys for KatherinE Jackson say the family deserves compensation. In closing arguments, they suggested that the matriarch get what AEG spent as they prepared to stage Jackson's comeback concerts: $35 million for starters. Then the numbers cited by the Jackson family attorney grew as he talked about the children's losses.

The plaintiffs' total request equals $325 million in noneconomic damages, $1.2 billion in economic damages. That's a total of over $1.5 billion.

The trial has lasted nearly five months. Jurors have heard from more than 30 witnesses. The closing arguments are expected to last a couple days. Once they are completed, jurors can begin deliberating as early as Thursday.

Katherine Jackson, along with Michael Jackson's three children, are listed as plaintiffs in this lawsuit. They are seeking unspecified damages, but they could receive more than $1 billion. That's how much attorneys say the pop star would have earned from his "This Is It" tour and other movies.

Because this is a civil trial, only nine of the 12 jurors must agree on a verdict.


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