- Created on 30 April 2013
LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson's struggle against drug addiction was on display Monday during opening statements in his mother's wrongful death case against concert promoter AEG Live.
Competing portraits of Jackson emerged during the first hours of the trial, with Katherine Jackson's attorney acknowledging the pop star's drug problems while also trying to show he was a caring son and father.
"His stirring voice, his musical genius, his creativity and his generosity and his huge heart was extinguished forever," her lawyer, Brian Panish, said in his opening remarks.
AEG's attorney, Marvin S. Putnam, said that while Jackson's death was tragic, his guarded private life meant the company was unaware that he was using the powerful anesthetic propofol.
"The truth is, Michael Jackson fooled everyone," Putnam said. "He made sure that no one — nobody — knew his deepest, darkest secrets."
A jury of six men and six women will determine whether AEG should pay Jackson's mother and three children for their losses after his 2009 death from an overdose of propofol. Millions and possibly billions of dollars in damages are at stake in the case that opened with private photos of the singer with his children and video clips of Jackson dancing.
"This case is about personal choices," Putnam said about Jackson's decision to be treated by physician Conrad Murray. "Also, it was about his personal responsibility. There's no question that Michael Jackson's death was a terrible tragedy.
"I believe the evidence will show it was not a tragedy of AEG Live's making," Putnam said as he ended his opening statement. Testimony will begin Tuesday.
Panish said AEG created a conflict of interest for Murray and forced him to choose between a large payday and Jackson's care. He told the jury AEG was feeling competitive pressures and wanted the Jackson tour to work at all costs.
"They didn't care who got lost in the wash," Panish told the jury.
Panish played a song that Jackson wrote for his three children, "You Are My Life," and displayed a note the singer had written for his mother that brought tears to her eyes as she sat in court.
Katherine Jackson sued AEG Live in September 2010, claiming it failed to properly investigate Murray before allowing him to serve as Jackson's doctor as he prepared for his "This Is It" shows. She is also suing on behalf of her son's three children — Prince, Paris and Blanket.
AEG denies it hired Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's death. AEG's attorneys have said the company could not have foreseen the circumstances that led to the singer's death at age 50.
Panish told jurors that AEG executives ignored warning signs about Jackson's health and were motivated to push the singer and his doctor to improve their own financial fortunes.
"We're not looking for any sympathy," Panish said. "We're looking for truth and justice."
With Jackson's mother, brother Randy and sister Rebbie seated in the front row of the courtroom, jurors were shown numerous slides and several scribbled notes.
A couple of jurors nodded when the lawyer referenced Jackson's achievements, including successful concert tours and a Super Bowl performance.
Katherine Jackson dabbed her eyes after Panish read a note that her son wrote to her, detailing his feelings about her.
"All my success has been based on the fact that I wanted to make my mother proud," the singer's note said, "to win her smile of approval."
The personal touches came after Panish spent the first half of his presentation detailing Jackson's struggles with prescription drug abuse throughout the last half of his life.
He also showed jurors numerous emails sent between AEG executives concerning Jackson's health and their concerns that he wouldn't be able to perform 50 planned concerts in London.
Putnam recounted the chaotic days following Jackson's death as investigators and the public tried to figure out how the singer died unexpectedly. He urged jurors to remember that propofol killed Jackson.
"One thing became very, very clear," Putnam said. "While the world may not have heard of propofol, Mr. Jackson certainly had. The evidence is going to show you that he had been using that drug for years and years."
He said jurors will hear from Jackson's ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, who would tell them that Jackson used the anesthetic in the 1990s.
"Mr. Jackson got very, very, good at hiding his addiction," Putnam said. "He didn't let anyone see it. Not his staff, not his children. This was the private Michael Jackson."
He said physician-patient confidentiality kept Jackson's reliance on propofol from becoming publicly known.
That extended to Murray as well. "He couldn't tell anyone about the propofol use," Putnam said of the former cardiologist.
Panish, however, said AEG saw the Jackson shows as a way to make a lot of money and better compete with Live Nation Entertainment Inc.
He displayed a March 2009 email sent before a news conference featuring Jackson, in which AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips wrote to Tim Leiweke, the former CEO of AEG'S parent company, that Jackson was drunk and refusing to address fans.
"This is the scariest thing I have ever seen," Phillips wrote Leiweke. "He is an emotionally paralyzed mess riddled with self-loathing and doubt now that it's show time. He's scared to death."
Panish said Jackson's behavior was just one of several warning signs the company ignored before the death.
He told the panel that they would be the ones to assign liability for Jackson's death, but they should look at AEG's actions and not focus on Jackson's issues.
"Michael paid the ultimate price. He died," Panish said. "Michael has taken responsibility."
- Created on 29 April 2013
Michael Jordan got married over the weekend, with Tiger Woods, Spike Lee and Patrick Ewing among those attending the NBA Hall of Famer's wedding in Palm Beach, Fla.
Jordan married 35-year-old former model Yvette Prieto on Saturday, manager Estee Portnoy told The Associated Press on Sunday.
The 50-year-old Jordan owns the Charlotte Bobcats.
Nearly 300 guests were present as they exchanged vows. The reception took place at a private golf club in Jupiter designed by Jack Nicklaus. Jordan owns a home near the course.
Entertainment included DJ MC Lyte, singers K'Jon, Robin Thicke and Grammy Award winner Usher and The Source, an 18-piece band.
The six-time NBA champion and Prieto met five years ago and were engaged last December.
Jordan had three children with former wife Juanita Vanoy. The couple's divorce was finalized in December 2006.
- Created on 23 April 2013
LOS ANGELES — Eighteen months after his involuntary manslaughter conviction, Michael Jackson's doctor on Monday appealed his case, claiming there were multiple legal errors at his trial.
A lawyer for Dr. Conrad Murray argued in the 230-page appellate brief that there was insufficient proof that Jackson died of an overdose of the anesthetic propofol administered by Murray.
The appeal also reiterated an often-stated defense claim that Jackson may have administered the overdose to himself.
The pop superstar died on June 25, 2009, days before he was to leave for England to perform in his ill-fated "This is It" concert. Witnesses said Murray had been giving him propofol as a sleep aid, a purpose for which it was not intended.
Attorney Valerie Wass said that because of Jackson's great fame, his doctor was used as an example by the judge who sentenced him to the highest term for involuntary manslaughter. She suggested that even if his conviction is upheld, his four-year sentence should be reduced.
Murray is eligible for release in October after serving half his sentence.
Murray's two-month trial in 2011 drew wide media coverage, and Wass argued that the judge should have excluded TV cameras from the courtroom and granted a motion to sequester jurors to keep them insulated from publicity.
"The unprecedented fame of the alleged victim combined with the pervasiveness of modern media rendered it impossible for appellant to receive a fair trial with a non-sequestered jury in a case that was televised and streamed live around the world," the appeal said.
Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor had denied the defense motion, saying jurors who are sequestered often feel like prisoners and it interferes with their decision-making process. He instructed jurors daily to avoid publicity, and there was no indication that they violated the order.
The appeal also challenged the prosecution theory that Jackson was hooked up to an IV drip of propofol and left alone in his bedroom by Murray.
It called that scenario "absurd, improbable and unbelievable," and provided an exhaustive reprise of scientific testimony about Jackson's death. Murray told police he gave the singer an extremely small dose of propofol, a fact contradicted by scientists who reconstructed the events preceding the death.
Wass contended that one defense attorney, Michael Flanagan, failed to adequately cross-examine a scientist who testified to that issue. She said he and other lawyers also waited too long to ask for examination of residue in a propofol bottle found in Jackson's room, Their motion was filed 11 days after conviction and was denied.
The appeal faulted the judge for refusing to admit as evidence some of Jackson's previous medical records, his contract with concert promoter AEG, and his financial documents.
"The trial court abused its discretion by excluding all evidence of Jackson's financial condition, including lawsuits pending against him because such evidence was relevant to establish Jackson's state of mind on the day he died, which may have explained his conduct that morning and supported the defense theory of the case," the appeal said.
The attorney general's office, representing the prosecution, has 30 days to respond to the appeal. Wass then has another 20 days for her response.
She said the outcome of the appellate case could have some impact on pending medical board proceedings for Murray in Texas and California. The boards will decide whether to revoke Murray's license to practice medicine in the two states.
Meanwhile, Murray may be summoned to testify in a civil lawsuit filed against AEG by Jackson's mother, Katherine. Jury selection in that case is currently underway. She claims the concert promoter was negligent in hiring Murray to care for the singer.
- Created on 26 April 2013
Some big names in the music industry are headed to the Petrillo Music Shell stage this summer as part of the entertainment for the city’s annual Taste of Chicago.
The City of Chicago and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events announced that Robin Thicke, Robert Plant, Jill Scott and Neon Trees headline concerts that will run throughout the July 10-14 event in Grant Park.
R&B recording artist Robin Thicke is Thursday night’s headliner. By age 21, Thicke was already writing and producing songs for talent such as Michael Jackson, Christina Aguilera, Brian McKnight and others. It wouldn’t be long before he was releasing his own music with a critically acclaimed debut album, A Beautiful World, and a nearly double platinum second release that topped four Billboard Charts, The Evolution of Robin Thicke. While putting the finishing touches on his sixth studio album, Thicke has released a single, “Blurred Lines.”
R&B artist, rapper, record producer and Grammy Award winning Estelle will open for Thicke.
Saturday, the three-time Grammy Award-winning Jill Scott will take the stage. The singer, songwriter, actress and poet has created a distinct style of music that combines jazz, R&B, spoken word and hip-hop.
The London-born and Jamaican influenced Maxi Priest will open for Scott.
“We are thrilled to announce the headlining talent for this year’s Taste of Chicago,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The Taste draws hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors to downtown Chicago and we are excited to offer attendees such a variety of recognized, energized and award-winning quality
For the second time, concert tickets will be sold to the seating area at the pavilion for $25 per ticket while the lawn seating remains free. Tickets are scheduled to go on sale beginning May 15.
- Created on 22 April 2013
LOS ANGELES — Lawyers in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by Michael Jackson's mother began using challenges to reject prospective jurors Friday but were confronted with a new set of panelists who had strong opinions critical of the superstar singer.
The search was to continue Monday for jurors who could be impartial toward Jackson and AEG, the company that promoted Jackson's ill-fated "This is It" concert.
No sooner had the attorneys excused two panelists for bias and used five of their 16 peremptory challenges to remove others without stating a cause than they were confronted with new problems.
One man said he had formed a strong opinion that Jackson was responsible for his own death.
"He was a weird person, too eccentric," he said when asked his opinion of Jackson as a person.
The jury candidate, an attorney, said he had heard that Jackson took strong narcotics to sleep.
"So you had a strong opinion that Michael Jackson caused his own death by taking strong narcotics?" asked Mrs. Jackson's attorney, Brian Panish.
"Yes," said the man. "...That's my opinion, not the facts, based on what I heard." He said he learned most of what he knew about the case from the Internet.
"I don't think I could be impartial," he said.
Another prospective juror who is the son of a doctor said he had a strong bias against Jackson and thought that Dr. Conrad Murray was not at fault in the superstar's death. He said he knew that Murray had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson an overdose of the anesthetic propofol.
"I don't believe Dr. Murray did anything wrong," said the man. "People take prescription drugs on their own. There may be some responsibility by Michael Jackson himself."
The man said he is also biased against people who seek large monetary awards in lawsuits involving doctors. He said his late father was an orthopedic surgeon and told him about the pitfalls of malpractice claims against physicians.
Mrs. Jackson's lawsuit claims AEG hired Dr. Conrad Murray as Jackson's physician without checking his credentials. Murray was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of the superstar.
Attorneys said outside court that the jury selection process could stretch through next week.