The Los Angeles County Superior Court judge presiding over the Michael Jackson wrongful-death suit admonished AEG Live’s chief executive Monday to answer the questions the Jackson family’s attorney asks him.
Randy Phillips, who attended two years of law school, was on the stand for the fourth day when Judge Yvette Palazuelos halted proceedings and sent jurors out of the courtroom. She turned to the witness. “Mr. Phillips,” she said, “you need to answer the questions being asked without comments. Arguing with the lawyers isn’t going to help. It really isn’t.”
The judge told Phillips she had expected his testimony to last only a day, “so try to answer the questions that are asked or we’ll be here another week. We can’t have that.”
Monday was the 25th day of a trial that could last as long as four months.
Phillips, AEG Live’s chief executive for 12 years, replied, “I’m just trying not to say the wrong thing.... But I understand the process better now.”
Phillips has been sparring with Brian Panish, the attorney for Jackson’s mother and three children, since he took the witness stand. Phillips often has tried to provide explanations, or “clarification,” as he has called it, in response to yes-or-no questions. Palazuelos has told Phillips several times to listen more closely to the questions. Last week she also told Panish, who has thrown his own barbs at Phillips, to stop arguing with him.
The judge’s comments also highlighted the sometimes fuzzy testimony of Phillips and Paul Gongaware, the AEG executive who preceded him as a witness. Jackson attorneys sometimes asked them a question and then played the video of their depositions, in which they gave a different answer. A deposition is taken under oath.
Jackson’s mother and three children say in their lawsuit that AEG negligently hired and supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, who is serving time for involuntary manslaughter after giving the singer a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol. AEG says that Jackson hired the doctor and that any payments the company was supposed to make were advances to the singer, the same as the money that went to pay the rent on his Holmby Hills mansion.
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