Jurors in the Michael Jackson wrongful-death case are now in a second full day of deliberations in a case that could pin the death of the pop star on one of the nation’s largest concert promoters.
But jurors could make quick work of the 16-question verdict form if they decide that entertainment giant AEG did not hire Dr. Conrad Murray, the Las Vegas physician who administered a fatal dose of a powerful anesthetic to Jackson while the entertainer was in rehearsals for a planned comeback tour.
The first question in the verdict form concerns Murray, and if jurors conclude the entertainment firm did not hire the physician, the trial would come to a quick end, with the Jackson family on the losing side.
If jurors answer yes, they would then have to answer 15 additional questions and decide what amount of damages to award Jackson’s mother and three children. The amount could top $1 billion.
The case, which delved into Jackson’s drug use, his emotional state and his physical health, never strayed far from the central question of whether it was the singer himself who was to blame for his own demise by insisting on hiring the doctor who killed him, or AEG for directing and controlling the physician.
AEG lawyer Marvin Putnam told jurors that Jackson used the anesthetic propofol as early as 1997 while on tour in Germany. The pop star's ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, testified that two German anesthesiologists turned their hotel room into a hospital suite and twice used the drug to knock out Jackson, each time for eight hours.
Putnam told jurors about several other instances in which Jackson unsuccessfully asked doctors for propofol, and the warnings he received about the anesthetic's dangers.
Putnam said Jackson, 50 when he died, was responsible for his own health. "He was a grown man and he made his own choices," Putnam said. "You know Mr. Jackson chose Dr. Murray. You know Mr. Jackson chose propofol."
On the other side, Jackson's family attorneys relied on emails that seem to offer a real-time version of thoughts and events. The emails describe concerns about Jackson's deteriorating emotional and physical condition as he rehearsed for his 50 comeback concerts in London and reveal that an AEG attorney called Jackson a "freak."
The emails may present the most damaging pieces of evidence against AEG.
"We want to remind him that it is AEG, not MJ who is paying his salary. We want him to understand what is expected of him," AEG executive Paul Gongaware wrote, seemingly undermining the claim that the doctor didn't work for the promoter.
Gongaware said he didn't recall writing it.
In another email, AEG Live Chief Executive Randy Phillips wrote of Murray: "This doctor is extremely successful (we check every one) and does not need this gig so he [is] totally unbiased and ethical."
Testimony showed that AEG never investigated Murray, who was actually in dire financial straits and had closed his practice to take on Jackson as his only patient for $150,000 a month.
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