The company producing Michael Jackson’s This Is It comeback concerts was a money-making machine run by executives who did not care about the star’s well-being, a lawyer told jurors Thursday.
Attorney Brian Panish used his rebuttal argument in the negligence case to urge the jury to find that AEG Live hired Dr. Conrad Murray to be Jackson’s physician without considering whether he was fit for the job.
Murray was convicted in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter after giving Jackson an overdose of the anesthetic propofol as a sleep aid as Jackson fought chronic insomnia.
Panish ended his rebuttal before lunch and the case is expected to go to the jury later in the day.
Panish focused on emails between AEG executives referring to Jackson wanting Murray to care for him during the concerts in London. He also showed jurors details of a contract drafted by AEG but only signed by Murray. He said it proved that AEG wanted to control the doctor.
The contention came a day after a lawyer for AEG Live told jurors that Jackson was the architect of his own demise and no one else can be blamed. Defense attorney Marvin Putnam said Jackson insisted on hiring the cardiologist, despite objections from AEG Live.
The company told Jackson there were great doctors in London but the singer would not be deterred, Putnam said.
“It was his money and he certainly wasn’t going to take no for an answer,” he said, explaining Murray was secretly giving the star intravenous doses of propofol, a drug not meant to be used outside operating rooms.
Putnam portrayed AEG Live and its executives as victims of deception by Jackson and Murray. He showed brief excerpts from the This Is It documentary to show that Jackson appeared in top form just 12 hours before he died.
“AEG Live did not have a crystal ball,” he said. “Dr. Murray and Mr. Jackson fooled everyone. They want to blame AEG for something no one saw.”
If AEG Live had known about the propofol treatments, it would have pulled the plug on the planned tour, the lawyer said.
“AEG would have never agreed to finance this tour if they knew Mr. Jackson was playing Russian roulette in his bedroom every night,” Putnam told jurors.
Putnam repeatedly referred to the 50-year-old Jackson as a grown man capable of making his own health care decisions, contradicting Panish’s descriptions of him as a perpetual “Peter Pan.”
If jurors find AEG didn’t hire Murray, their work will be done quickly and they need not decide other questions involving damages.
Still, he Putnam reviewed the damage issues, ridiculing the plaintiffs for once saying they wanted $1.5 billion from the concert giant.
He said that figure was based on expert witness speculation on how much Jackson could have earned if he lived a long time and continued to perform. But he asserted that damages cannot be based on speculation.
A unanimous verdict is not required in the case. Only nine of the 12 jurors must agree.