Los Angeles (AFP) – Jurors in the trial pitting Michael Jackson’s family against the promoters of his last doomed tour will retire to consider their verdict, after a final plea by his mother’s lawyers.
At the end of a five-month trial, the six-man, six-woman jury will have to decide if promoters AEG Live negligently hired and supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, the medic convicted over the pop icon’s 2009 death.
If they find in the Jacksons’ favor they will also determine how much AEG Live should pay in compensation. The promoters’s main lawyer says the star’s family wants $1.5 billion, a sum he calls “absurd.”
Lawyers for the Jackson family and AEG Live made their closing arguments on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the Jacksons’ attorney Brian Panish has one last chance to rebut his rivals’ claims on Thursday.
Panish has said the promoters should pay $290 million in so-called non-economic damages, for the likes of loss of emotional comfort, and an unspecified amount for economic damages.
On Tuesday he cited accountants’ analyses of Jackson’s potential future earnings of between about $900 million and $1.6 billion, but said the jury would have to decide its own figure.
AEG Live’s attorney Marvin Putnam said Wednesday a claim on such scale was ridiculous.
“Their dollar amount is $1.5 billion dollars. They kinda rushed through that,” he said, referring to the studies cited by Panish the previous day, including in slides shown in court.
“I’m sorry, that’s an absurd number. And they haven’t even remotely proved it.”
Jackson, 50, died on June 25, 2009 from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol at his rented mansion in Los Angeles, where he was rehearsing for the “This is It” shows at London’s 02 Arena.
Murray, a cardiologist, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a criminal trial in 2011 for giving the drug to the star — who suffered from chronic insomnia — to help him sleep.
Murray was jailed for four years.
In the civil trial, the singer’s mother Katherine Jackson, 83, alleged that AEG Live negligently hired an inappropriate and incompetent doctor and missed a series of red flags about the star’s failing health in the run-up to his death.
But the promoter’s lawyer said Wednesday that AEG Live never actually hired Murray, who it noted had treated Jackson and his children over several years.
“You can’t negligently hire someone unless you hire them,” said Putnam, adding: “The evidence is very clear that Michael Jackson was the one who hired Dr Murray.”
Referring to the nightly propofol infusions given to Jackson by Murray, the lawyer said: “AEG never would have agreed to finance this tour if it knew that Mr Jackson was playing Russian roulette in his bedroom every night.”
Jackson was “responsible for his own health, certainly his own healthcare, and he’s responsible for his own choices, no matter how bad those choices turn out to be,” Putnam said.
“The truth here is a tragedy … It’s a tragedy for this family, a tragedy for his mother, a tragedy for his kids. It’s horrible and it’s incredibly sad. But it’s not a tragedy of AEG Live’s making.”
Katherine Jackson, who has been in court this week as she has been throughout the trial, is taking the legal action on behalf of herself and Jackson’s three children: 16-year-old Prince, Paris, 15, and 11-year-old “Blanket.”
If the jury decides in the Jackson family’s favor, Jackson family lawyer Panish suggested jurors split whatever compensation amount they decide on in the ratio of 30 percent for each of the three children, and 10 percent for Jackson’s mother.
Photo Credit: AFP/Irfan Khan