September 26, 2013
By LINDA DEUTSCH
LOS ANGELES — A lawyer for Michael Jackson’s family on Tuesday portrayed concert promoter AEG Live LLC and Jackson’s doctor as mercenaries who sacrificed the pop star’s life in a quest to boost their own fortunes.
Attorney Brian Panish made the claims while delivering his closing argument at the long-running negligence case, asking jurors: “Do people do things they shouldn’t do for money? People do it every day.”
A $150,000-a-month contract to care for Jackson was a lifeline to help Dr. Conrad Murray climb out of his financial troubles, Panish told jurors, saying the doctor was $500,000 in debt and about to lose his home.
AEG Live, meanwhile, had only one interest — launching a world tour for the King of Pop that would yield untold millions in profits, the lawyer said.
The lawsuit filed by Katherine Jackson, the singer’s mother, accuses AEG Live of negligence in hiring Murray and seeks as-yet unspecified damages for the singer's family.
Panish told a packed courtroom that Murray’s woes were unknown to AEG Live when Jackson proposed the cardiologist as his private physician because the company did not research his finances.
He also said Murray’s willingness to close his medical offices to take the job could have raised a red flag if AEG Live had investigated the cardiologist.
“Obviously, he was incompetent and unfit,” Panish said. “He caused the death of Michael Jackson.”
Murray was convicted in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter after giving Jackson an overdose of the anesthetic propofol as he tried to sleep during preparations for his “This Is It” concerts in London.
Attorneys for AEG will present their closing argument Wednesday.
The company has claimed that Jackson insisted that Murray treat him because the doctor was giving him propofol as a sleep aid. The drug is not meant to be used outside operating rooms.
AEG Live drafted a contract for Murray’s services, according to testimony, but it was only signed by Murray. Still, Panish said, the contract was valid because it was the result of oral negotiations with Murray.
Panish urged jurors to act as the conscience of the community and award damages to Jackson’s family. Jackson’s mother, Katherine, her daughter Rebbie and nephews Taj and TJ, sat in a front row as Panish delivered his remarks.
The trial had been moved to a larger courtroom to accommodate media, spectators, lawyers and Jackson fans. A delegation of justice officials from Thailand also observed from the gallery.
The plaintiffs, who have the burden of proof, were expected to tell jurors on Thursday that they are seeking more than $1 billion. Experts have testified that Jackson had a long, lucrative career ahead of him when he died at 50.
On Monday, Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos gave the jury legal instructions. Everyone has biases, she said, but they must not be swayed by prejudice, sympathy or public opinion while deliberating.
If the jury finds that damages should be assessed, the judge said they must not consider such issues as the grief endured by the Jackson family or the wealth of both sides in the bitterly fought case.
A unanimous verdict is not required. Only nine of the 12 jurors must agree.