LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Closing arguments began Tuesday morning in the high-profile wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of the late Michael Jackson against entertainment promoter AEG Live.
Michael Jackson’s mother, 83-year-old Katherine Jackson, sued the concert promoting giant in Sept. 2010 on behalf of herself and her son’s three children. She claims AEG negligently hired Dr. Conrad Murray to care for the singer as he prepared for his ill-fated “This Is It” comeback concert series and wants the firm to be held liable for her son’s death.
Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death and sentenced in November 2011 to four years in the Los Angeles County men’s jail.
AEG officials say the company cannot be held responsible for Jackson’s death.
Attorneys for AEG, who rested their defense Sept.18, argued Jackson maintained secrecy surrounding his medical care, including the treatment Dr. Conrad Murray was providing inside Jackson’s bedroom when the pop star died from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol in June 2009.
After a 21-week trial, lawyers for the Jackson family began their closing statements around 10:30 a.m. The plaintiffs’ attorneys, who have the burden of proof, will then get a second chance to speak to the jury following statements made by AEG’s lawyers, who will be given four hours on Wednesday.
The judge in the case decided to allow cameras in the courtroom for closing arguments.
“Even though he accomplished more than any other musician before him, he also endured more physical, mental and emotional pain than any of us could ever have imagined,” said lead attorney for the Jackson family Brian Panish.
The attorney then moved to the first question jurors will be asked to determine: if AEG Live hired Dr. Conrad Murray. If the jury decides that the concert promoter did not hire Murray, the deliberation will be over and the Jackson family will lose.
Panish showed the jury a clip from a British television interview with AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips in which the executive appears to answer the question.
“We just felt this is his personal doctor he wants him 24/7, and the guy’s willing to leave his practice for a large sum of money, so we hired him,” Phillips said in the video.
Panish told the jury the contract drawn up by AEG executives called for Conrad Murray to be paid for work already performed, and argued a contract can be an oral agreement and does not have to be written.
The Jackson attorney went on to focus on an email sent by AEG co-CEO Paul Gongaware that he argued shows AEG pressured Conrad Murray into making medical decisions that cost Michael Jackson his life.
“We want to remind him that it is AEG not MJ who is paying his salary. We want him to understand what is expected of him,” the email reads.
The jury was shown a portion of video deposition where Gongaware is asked about the email and testified he did not recall. Panish then played a video compilation of the instances when AEG executives testified not remembering emails they sent or received.
“They wrote the email with the King of Pop, the biggest thing they had going, and they don’t remember anything,” Panish told the jury. “Because they’ve taken the ‘ABC defense’: anybody but the company.”
Judge Yvette Palazuelos dismissed Gongaware and Phillips as defendants from the case earlier this month.
Attorneys for the Jackson family told the jury a reasonable compensation for the loss of Michael Jackson would be $85 million for each of Jackson’s three children, and $35 million for his mother, far less than the $1 billion experts in the case had predicted based on projections of what Jackson could have earned if he lived.
The jury, which will begin deliberating after an anticipated three days of closing arguments, could decide AEG is only partially responsible for the singer’s death and assign a percentage of negligence to them.