LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The choreographer for Michael Jackson’s ill-fated tour took the stand for a second time Thursday, proving a key witness for both sides in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by the singer’s family against concert promoter AEG Live.
Kenny Ortega testified in July that he sent an email to AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips about Jackson’s failing health. In the email exchange, Phillips appears to praise Dr. Murray and warned at one point tells Ortega that it was critical they not become “amateur psychiatrists or physicians.”
During Ortega’s July testimony, the judge called a recess after the late star’s creative partner broke down in tears on the witness stand as he read a part of the email he wrote in the days before Jackson’s death.
The tone shifted Thursday as Ortega was questioned by AEG Live lead attorney Marvin Putnam. Asked by Putnam if he felt that AEG Live pressured Mr. Jackson in any way, Ortega testified no.
“Everything we brought to AEG in terms of the enormous creative needs in order to realize the full potential of ‘This Is It’, Michael’s vision that I shared, AEG was very supportive in doing all they could in making those things happen,” Ortega testified.
Since their opening statements, attorneys for AEG Live have characterized the case as one that involves personal responsibility.
Asked by Putnam if dancers are responsible for their own health, Ortega testified “adults are responsible for their own health.”
“At the time, did you think Mr. Jackson was responsible for his own health?” Putnam asked.
“I didn’t think he was being very responsible but it was his responsibility in my opinion,” Ortega said.
“I wanted to take care of him, you always want to take care of someone if they’re not feeling well,” he went on to testify. “But you can’t be responsible for them, they have to be responsible for themselves.”
But while under questioning from Jackson attorneys, Ortega testified that he also believed it was his responsibility to tell AEG executives about the singer’s deteriorating helath, and that it was AEG’s responsibility to hire a fit and competent doctor to care for him.
Michael Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson, is suing AEG Live for what she claims was negligence in the hiring and supervision of Conrad Murray, who was brought on board as Michael Jackson’s physician while the singer prepared for the comeback concert series.
AEG denies any wrongdoing and maintains the doctor was brought on at Jackson’s request.
Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011 after he was found guilty of administering the fatal dose of propofol that killed Jackson in 2009.
He is currently serving a four-year sentence in a L.A. County jail.