Michael Jackson’s life and death back in spotlight in new trial

LONDON - MARCH 05:  Michael Jackson announces plans for Summer residency at the O2 Arena at a press conference held at the O2 Arena on March 5, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images)
LONDON – MARCH 05: Michael Jackson announced plans for Summer residency at the O2 Arena at a press conference held at the O2 Arena on March 5, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Almost four years after his shocking death, the bizarre life and sorry demise of Michael Jackson will play out again in a $40 billion civil trial that pits the singer’s family against the organizers of a musical comeback that never happened.

Opening statements are set for Monday in what is expected to be an emotional, three-month long jury trial that seeks to hold AEG Live, the promoters of the never-realized series of 2009 London concerts, liable for the wrongful death of the “Thriller” singer.

The lawsuit, brought by Jackson’s elderly mother Katherine on behalf of the singer’s three children, alleges that privately-held AEG Live was negligent in hiring the physician convicted in 2011 of his involuntary manslaughter to care for the singer while he rehearsed for the series of 50 shows.

Jackson, 50, drowning in debt and seeking to rebuild a reputation damaged by his 2005 trial and acquittal on child molestation charges, died in Los Angeles of an overdose of the powerful surgical anesthetic propofol and a cocktail of other sedatives in June 2009.

His personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, is serving a four-year prison sentence after being found criminally negligent by administering propofol to Jackson as a sleep aid.

Murray’s six-week trial in 2011 portrayed the former child star known for his stunning dance moves and spectacular public performances as a slurring, drugged-up man off-stage who slept with a toy doll on his bed and whose planned comeback tour was plagued with problems.

The civil trial in Los Angeles is expected to be just as sensational, although a request by TV networks for live coverage was turned down.

AEG Live contends that it did not hire or supervise Murray and claims that Jackson had prescription drug problems for years before entering into any agreement for the “This is It” London concerts.

The concert promoters also argue that they could not have foreseen that Murray posed a danger to Jackson.

SEX ABUSE TRIAL MAY BE REVISITED

Los Angeles Superior Court judge Yvette Palazuelos ruled last month that AEG Live can raise Jackson’s 2005 child abuse case as it may be relevant to the singer’s history of prescription drug abuse and despondency.

Jackson’s two oldest children, Prince, 16 and Paris, 15, are on the witness list this time, although neither testified in Murray’s trial. Singers Prince and Diana Ross are also potential witnesses along with the singer’s ex-wives, Lisa-Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe.

“Any time you start injecting family members and rather sensitive issues (into the mix), there are going to be strong feelings,” former federal prosecutor Marcellus McRae told Reuters.

Murray is not being sued but is also on the witness list, although he has made clear from jail that he will refuse to answer questions for fear of jeopardizing his appeal process.

McRae, now a trial lawyer with Los Angeles firm Gibson Dunn, said that while the criminal trial focused heavily on medical and scientific evidence – including a defense theory that Jackson gave himself the fatal dose of propofol – the jury in the civil case has a very different task.

“The jurors are going to be asked to decide to what extent a third party can be held liable for the actions of someone else.

“To what extent did they (AEG Live) have visibility into what Dr. Murray was doing, did they encourage what he was doing? To what extent was whatever Dr. Murray did a reasonable and foreseeable consequence,” McRae said.

Katherine Jackson, 82, and her son’s three children are seeking some $40 billion in damages from AEG Live for loss of the singer’s earnings and other damages.

AEG Live has argued in court papers that the figure is absurd because Jackson’s career was in a downward spiral at the time of his death.

The final amount will be determined by the jury should it hold AEG Live liable for negligence.

(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Paul Simao)



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Mayor announces public housing improvements

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem on Wednesday, calling for the scaffolding to come down at NYCHA complexes across…

National

Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…

Local

Bratton defends 'broken windows' work as NYPD support…

Sixty percent of those polled said they support the "broken windows" theory approach popularized by Commissioner Bratton since his first term in the 1990s.

Local

Transit changes for Labor Day weekend

The MTA is adding additional service Friday for New Yorkers getting out of the city for the long weekend. On Friday, Aug. 29, 27 additional…

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

Season 11’s top four dancers gave their final performances before America’s Favorite Dancers are announced next week.

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

MUSIC The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees…

Going Out

5 things to do this weekend in NYC

The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees expected. David Guetta,…

Music

The Handsome Family on 'True Detective' Emmy and…

When asked to describe The Handsome Family’s latest album, Rennie Sparks channels Rust Cohle of “True Detective.” “A strange problem that humans have is that…

NFL

Mario Manningham on the bubble as Giants play…

Former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham hopes his second go-around with Big Blue doesn’t end with Saturday’s final cut day.

NFL

Source: Stephen Hill 'faces a battle' to make…

A team source says Stephen Hill, who has battled injuries and poor performances during his first two years, is no lock to make the Jets’ final roster.

Sports

Serena Williams leaving legacy of talented American women…

It seems only a matter of when, not if, Serena Williams will win her 18th career grand slam championship.

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…

Sex

The 10 types of people you meet online

Does it ever seem like online dating profiles tend to get a little repetitive? It turns out you are not the only one to have…

Home

Labor Day essentials

Whether you’re soaking up the sun on the beach or barbecuing in the park here are some must-haves for your end-of-summer bash.