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Who’s to blame for Michael Jackson’s death?

Jury must decide if AEG Live contributed to his death by hiring Dr. Conrad Murray

CNN News Wire | 9/24/2013, 12:28 p.m.
Dr. Conrad Murray

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Michael Jackson suddenly awoke at 4:30 a.m. on April 19, 2009, stood on his bed and exclaimed “I told you I cannot sleep all night!”

Jackson’s frustration, just as rehearsals for his comeback concerts were gearing up, marked the beginning of the end for the pop icon, a deterioration documented by e-mails, photographs and testimony presented in the wrongful death trial of concert promoter AEG Live.

Nurse Cherilyn Lee, who had been giving Jackson IV infusions of a cocktail of vitamins for two months to help him sleep, sat at his bedside. “It kind of scared me,” Lee said. “It really startled me when he stared at me with his big brown eyes.”

Jackson asked Lee to help him find an anesthesiologist to infuse him with the surgical anesthetic propofol because he was convinced it was the only cure for his insomnia, she testified.

Jackson had made the same request of Dr. Allan Metzger when the doctor, who had treated him for 26 years, visited his Los Angeles home a day earlier, according to Metzger’s testimony.

Metzger and Lee testified that they refused, warning Jackson that it was unsafe to use the IV anesthetic outside of a hospital or clinic.

Jackson told Lee that doctors had assured him it was safe as long as he was properly monitored. She testified that she told Jackson that any doctor who would give him propofol at home didn’t care about him and was just doing it for the money.

Jackson died 65 days later from an overdose of propofol, a drug that Dr. Conrad Murray told investigators he infused into Jackson almost every night for two months to put him to sleep.

Murray is a month away from being freed from jail after serving two years for an involuntary manslaughter conviction in Jackson’s death.

Closing arguments begin Tuesday in the five-month-long trial to decide if AEG Live shares responsibility in Jackson’s death for the negligent hiring, retention or supervision of Murray.

The 83 days of testimony that ended Friday included startling revelations about the pop icon’s fatal search for sleep.

Burden of proof

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos instructed jurors Monday that Jackson’s mother and three children have the burden of proving that their case is “more likely to be true than not true.” Unlike in a criminal case, they do not have to prove it “beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said. A verdict requires just nine of the 12 jurors to agree — not a unanimous decision.

The Jacksons’ lawsuit contends AEG Live is liable for damages in the singer’s death because its executives hired Murray to serve as Jackson’s personal physician for his “This Is It” tour and that they were negligent in hiring, retaining or supervising him.

Jurors will have a verdict form with 16 questions to answer during their deliberations. A “no” answer to any of the first five would end their deliberations and the trial immediately. Beyond that, they would decide what damages, if any, AEG Live would pay the Jacksons.