Michael Jackson wrongful death trial: Opening statement begins


Members of the Jackson family arrived at the downtown Los Angeles court house as the late pop star's life and death rose to the spotlight once again. Jackson's mother, Katherine, wants a jury to hold concert promoter AEG responsible for her son's death.

The singer's struggle against drug addiction was put on display Monday in the wrongful death case.

Brian Panish, the attorney for Katherine Jackson and Michael's children, told the jury about evidence that AEG officials knew for decades about Jackson's struggles with meds, but instead of helping him, they hired Dr. Conrad Murray. Murray was not a pain management specialist but a cardiologist whose home was in foreclosure, owed child support and allegedly was denied privileges at Houston hospital for patient care issues.

While AEG could have hired someone else, the plaintiffs say that only money-strapped Murray would provide Jackson with the drugs the pop start demanded.

AEG lawyer Marvin Putnam used the defense that Jackon was an addict.

"No one knew about Propofol, not his mother, not his children, not the staff working at his house, certainly not the tour promoters," he said.

Putnam went on to portray the case as one of personal choice, that Jackson was responsible for his own death.

"MJ fooled everybody. He made sure no one, nobody, knew his deepest dark secret," he said.

The trial, which will last for months, is expected to reveal details of Jackson's private life and his medical history including his prescription drug abuse. Information from his medical records have remained sealed until now.

Jackson's past legal troubles are also expected to take center stage.

Tom Mesereau represented Jackson in his 2004-2005 child sex abuse trial. Mesereau says if he is called to the witness stand, he will testify that Jackson was exonerated from all molestation charges and that those charges did not diminish Jackson's reputation.

"They want to try and say his reputation was diminished," said Edwards. "If that's true, why did they enter into a business contract with him? And why did they invest $30 million in him before the concerts even began?"

Katherine Jackson and her three children are suing AEG for billions of dollars, alleging that AEG was negligent when hiring Conrad Murray as Jackson's personal physician.

Katherine Jackson alleges that AEG failed to properly investigate Murray and also put pressure on him to perform.

Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's death. Murray had administered drugs to Jackson repeatedly to help him sleep as the singer prepared for the concerts.

AEG contends that it did not hire Murray and could not have foreseen the singer's death. The trial will address issues about Jackson's health and finances, which were not factors in Murray's criminal trial.

Mesereau says he believes the defense has an uphill battle.

"If you look at those emails where they acknowledge they're paying his doctor, they acknowledge that he better perform even if he's not well," said Mesereau. "I think the defense has a real uphill battle. I think that sympathy is going to be with Katherine and Michael's three children."

Other legal analysts say that proving the allegations made by Katherine Jackson may be difficult.

"Dr. Murray was a doctor that Michael Jackson had a prior relationship with and that Michael Jackson was the one that was instrumental in getting Dr. Murray hired by AEG or in essence really paid by AEG," said Edwards.

A jury of six men and six women will listen to several months of testimony before deciding if AEG Live, one of the world's largest entertainment companies, should pay Jackson's mother and his three children billions of dollars for its liability in the pop star's death.

Katherine Jackson and the singer's three children are suing AEG in excess of $50 million each for general damages and $10 million each for special damages, making a possible payout in the billions.

Lawyers for Katherine Jackson argue that if Michael Jackson had lived he could potentially have earned that much.

The first witness is expected to take the stand Tuesday. Jackson's two oldest children, Paris and Prince, may testify. Celebrities, such as Diana Ross, Spike Lee and Quincy Jones, are also listed as potential witnesses. It is unclear who will take the stand first.

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