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Promoter didn’t pressure Michael Jackson’s doctor, says defense expert

Believes AEG had no way of knowing about propofol infusions

Alan Duke | 8/22/2013, midnight
The doctor convicted in Michael Jackson’s death did not appear to be pressured by AEG Live, an expert hired by ...

The doctor convicted in Michael Jackson’s death did not appear to be pressured by AEG Live, an expert hired by the concert promoter testified Friday.

Dr. Gary Green returned to the witness stand Monday in the Jackson wrongful death trial in Los Angeles.

Michael Jackson’s mother and three children contend AEG Live is liable in the pop icon’s death because it hired, retained or supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, who is serving a prison sentence for involuntary manslaughter.

The company argues that Jackson chose and controlled the doctor and that its executives had no way of knowing about the dangerous propofol infusions Murray was giving him in the privacy of Jackson’s bedroom.

Jackson died from an overdose of the surgical anesthetic days before his comeback concert was to premiere, according to the Los Angeles County coroner.

Green, who reviewed the testimony and evidence presented in the previous 16 weeks of the trial, challenged the conclusions of Dr. Gordon Matheson, a medical ethics expert hired by Jackson lawyers.

“I disagree with Dr. Matheson completely,” said Green, who serves as the team doctor for Pepperdine University athletics.

Matheson, the director of the sports medicine department at Stanford University, testified that AEG Live created a conflict of interest because the contract it negotiated with Murray to serve as Jackson’s personal doctor for $150,000 a month “was likely to lead to poor medical decisions.”

Matheson, who also is team doctor for Stanford’s athletic department, compared it to a football coach telling a team doctor on the sidelines in the fourth quarter of a big game that a star quarterback has to go back in the game despite a suspected concussion.

Green challenged Matheson’s comparison, saying the school chooses the team doctor, not the patient. Jackson chose Murray, he said.

Murray, who had closed his clinics to take the job and was $1 million in debt, would be inclined not to resist the AEG Live executives’ pressure to get Jackson to rehearsals despite evidence of his failing health, Matheson testified.

Murray himself was conflicted because the negotiated contract was structured so that he answered to AEG, but it also could be canceled if the tour was canceled, he said. “I think that conflict played out as Michael Jackson’s health began to deteriorate.”

Green testified Friday that there was no conflict because it was in Murray’s interest to keep Jackson healthy so his job could continue.

Emails from the show director Kenny Ortega and production manager John “Bugzee” Hougdahl warned AEG executives of Jackson’s deterioration during June 2009, including indications he was unable to do some of his trademark dances or remember lyrics to songs he had sung for decades.

His makeup artist and a choreographer testified about Jackson’s paranoia, his talking to himself and hearing voices, and his severe weight loss.

Associate producer Alif Sankey testified that she “had a very strong feeling that Michael was dying” after a rehearsal 11 days before his death.

“I was screaming into the phone at that point,” Sankey testified. “I said he needs to be put in the hospital now.”

The defense expert discounted the significance of an email written by AEG Live co-CEO Paul Gongaware to Ortega that the Jackson lawyers argue is evidence the promoter pressured Murray in the days before Jackson’s death.

Gongaware wrote: “We want to remind (Murray) that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary. We want to remind him what is expected of him.”

Green testified Friday that since he saw no evidence the message was ever communicated to Murray, he believed “it was not influencing.”

The AEG Live expert also cited evidence that Murray resisted any interference from the promoters, telling them at one point to “stay in their lane” and leave Jackson’s health to him. He also kept Jackson from rehearsals at one point, contrary to what the promoter wanted, Green said.

AEG Live’s next witness will be human resources consultant Rhoma Young, who it hired to provide expert testimony concerning the Jacksons’ contention that the company negligently hired Murray.