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
National

California passes 'yes-means-yes' campus sexual assault bill

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on…

National

Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all…

By Stephanie NebehayGENEVA (Reuters) - Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, but many remain trapped by the advance…

International

North Korean leader's money manager defects in Russia:…

A senior North Korean banking official who managed money for leader Kim Jong Un has defected in Russia and was seeking asylum in a third country, a South Korean newspaper…

Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 29,…

The Department of Transportation and NYPD said there may be residual delays near all of the street closures on August 29, 31 and 31. Several streets and avenues will be…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

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

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

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…