ABOVE PHOTO: Brian Panish, attorney for the Michael Jackson family delivers his closing argument to jurors in a packed courtroom in downtown Los Angeles, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013. Panish asked a Los Angeles jury to act as the conscience of the community and award damages for the loss of the pop star’s life.
(AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Al Seib, POOL)
By Linda Deutsch
LOS ANGELES — With the final act looming in the long-running negligence suit by Michael Jackson’s family against his concert promoter, the lawyer for AEG Live LLC told jurors that Jackson was the architect of his own demise and no one else can be blamed.
Before the case goes to the jury Thursday, a lawyer for Katherine Jackson gets a last chance to answer the arguments that AEG is not liable for the singer’s death.
Defense attorney Marvin Putnam changed the tenor of the trial Wednesday from a movie theater where Jackson performed on screen and jurors saw his home movies to a law school where Putnam walked jurors through the technicalities of their decision.
A key issue in the negligence suit is whether AEG Live or Michael Jackson hired Dr. Conrad Murray as the tour doctor for Jackson’s “This Is It” concerts in London. Plaintiffs’ attorney Brian Panish said an unsigned contract drafted by AEG proves the company was Murray’s employer. Putnam said Jackson insisted on hiring the cardiologist against objections from AEG.
AEG told Jackson there were great doctors in London but the singer would not be deterred, Putnam said.
“It was his money and he certainly wasn’t going to take no for an answer,” he said.
The secret reason, he said, was that Murray was giving the star intravenous doses of the anesthetic propofol as a sleep aid for his chronic insomnia.
Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011 after giving Jackson an overdose of propofol on the day he died in 2009. The drug is not meant to be used outside operating rooms.
Putnam portrayed AEG Live and its executives as victims of deception by Jackson and Murray. He showed brief excerpts from the “This Is It” documentary to show that Jackson appeared in top form 12 hours before he died.
“AEG Live did not have a crystal ball,” he said. “Dr. Murray and Mr. Jackson fooled everyone. They want to blame AEG for something no one saw.”
If AEG Live had known about the propofol treatments it would have pulled the plug on the planned tour, the lawyer said.
“AEG would have never agreed to finance this tour if they knew Mr. Jackson was playing Russian roulette in his bedroom every night,” Putnam told jurors.
Putnam repeatedly referred to the 50-year-old Jackson as “a grown man” capable of making his own health care decisions, contradicting Panish’s descriptions of him as a perpetual “Peter Pan.”
“He made some bad choices that resulted in a horrible tragedy. You can’t blame someone else for his bad choices,” Putnam said.
Putnam said if jurors find AEG didn’t hire Murray, their work will be done very quickly and they need not decide other questions involving damages. But he reviewed the damage issues as well, ridiculing the plaintiffs for once saying they wanted $1.5 billion from the concert giant.
He said that figure was based on expert witness speculation on how much Jackson could have earned if he lived a long time and continued to perform. But he asserted that damages cannot be based on speculation.
A unanimous verdict is not required in the case. Only nine of the 12 jurors must agree.