Jury: AEG Not Liable in Michael Jackson’s Death
LOS ANGELES (CNN) –A Los Angeles jury decided Wednesday that AEG Live hired Dr. Conrad Murray, but also concluded that the concert promoter was not liable for Michael Jackson’s drug overdose death.
The verdict brings the five-month-long trial to a close.
While waiting for the verdict, Jackson family matriarch Katherine Jackson sat on a courthouse bench playing a game on her iPad.
Jackson’s mother and three children sued AEG Live in 2010, contending the company’s negligence in hiring, retaining or supervising Dr. Conrad Murray was a factor in the singer’s June 25, 2009, death.
Jackson died of an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol, which Murray told investigators he was using to treat the singer’s insomnia so he could rest for rehearsals. Murray is set to be released from jail later this month after serving two years for involuntary manslaughter.
Jackson died just days before his comeback tour — promoted and produced by AEG Live — was set to debut in London in the summer of 2009.
To reach their verdict, jurors had to answer the question: Did AEG Live hire Murray?
The company’s lawyers contended Jackson chose Murray, who had treated him for three years as a family physician, but Jackson lawyers argued the promoters chose to negotiate their own contract with the doctor so they could control him.
A “smoking gun” e-mail sent by AEG Live Co-CEO Paul Gongaware 11 days before Jackson died said: “We want to remind (Murray) that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary. We want to remind him what is expected of him.”
The Jacksons also pointed to a television interview soon after Jackson died in which AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips said AEG Live “hired” Murray.
AEG Live lawyers argued they had no way of knowing that Murray — licensed to practice in four states and never sued for malpractice — was a risk to Jackson. The singer was a secretive drug addict who kept even his closest relatives in the dark about his use of propofol to sleep, they contended.
Jackson lawyers contended the company’s agreement with Murray created a medical conflict of interest that led him to break his Hippocratic Oath to do no harm. Murray, who was $1 million in debt, was pressured to deliver the risky treatments or else possibly lose the $150,000 monthly salary, they argued.
Executives ignored a series of warning signs that Jackson was at risk in his last weeks, including deteriorating health that included weight loss, inability to perform his trademark dances or remember lyrics to his standard songs and paranoia, the Jacksons argued.
Jurors appeared engaged and entertained during the 21-week trial that included dramatic testimony by Jackson’s mother, son and former wife. Several jurors even applauded at the end of testimony by famed choreographer-director Kenny Ortega.
By Alan Duke