LOS ANGELES – In a trial over Michael Jackson’s 2009 death, lawyers for the pop star’s mother will launch their case Monday for massive compensation from the promoter of his last doomed tour.
Opening statements at the wrongful death trial in Los Angeles will pit Katherine Jackson against AEG Live, whom she blames for negligently hiring Conrad Murray, the doctor convicted over his killing.
Underlining the high stakes, lawyers from both sides have spent an unusually long four weeks picking the 12-member jury — six men and six women — who will decide whether the promoters have to pay out potentially billions of dollars.
Murray, convicted and imprisoned for involuntary manslaughter in 2011 for giving the singer an overdose of propofol, could be called to give evidence, but has said he will invoke his right to remain silent to avoid incriminating himself.
The late pop star’s 82-year-old mother, as well as his two elder children, will also give evidence in the trial, which comes nearly four years after his death, and could last over three months.
Jackson died at his Los Angeles mansion on June 25, 2009, at the age of 50, from an overdose of the powerful sedative propofol, which was administered by Murray to help the “Thriller” legend deal with chronic insomnia.
At the time of his death, he was rehearsing for a series of 50 shows in London, organized with the Anschutz Entertainment Group in what was seen as an attempt to revive his career and to ease his financial woes.
Jackson’s mother claims AEG Live pushed her son too hard to prepare for the London shows.
But AEG claims Jackson had a history of drug abuse long before the singer met Murray, hired to care for him before and during the shows at London’s O2 Arena.
“AEG had legal duties to Michael Jackson to treat him safely and to not put him in harm’s way,” the lawsuit says, according to the Los Angeles Times. “But AEG, despite its knowledge of Michael Jackson’s physical condition, breached those duties by putting its desire for massive profits from the tour over the health and safety of Michael Jackson.”
Judge Yvette Palazuelos has allowed testimony about child molestation charges against Jackson to be heard, but she has refused to allow testimony notably about the parentage of Jackson’s three children. She has yet to rule on whether Jackson’s medical records could be unsealed, to be used in evidence.
News website TMZ says Jackson’s mother and his three children want more than $40 billion from AEG for loss of future earnings. AEG claims the figure is “preposterous.”
Unlike at Murray’s trial two years ago, there will be no live TV coverage of proceedings at the Los Angeles Superior Court, which will be held amid tight security. The trial is due to start at 10 a.m. Monday. The judge has ordered lawyers to limit opening statements to 2½ hours each, the Los Angeles Times reported.