LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Paris and Prince Jackson made their first appearances Tuesday in the wrongful death trial against their father’s last concert promoter.
AEG Live lawyers played short video clips from the depositions of Michael Jackson’s oldest children in court to counter testimony from their chef.
Kai Chase, who cooked for the singer and his three children in the last months of his life, described what she said was Jackson’s physical deterioration just before his death.
Jackson was strong, healthy and active in April, but was so weak by June that Prince, then 12, had to help his father walk up stairs, Chase testified.
Chase also repeated the testimony she gave in the criminal trial of Dr. Conrad Murray about the day Jackson died.
But her most dramatic words were about how Michael Jackson’s death affected his children — Prince, Paris and Blanket Jackson, for whom she now cooks at their grandmother’s home.
“They talk about their father a lot,” Chase said. “It’s just something that they’ll never get over — the love and how much they miss their father.”
Jackson’s mother and three children are suing AEG Live, contending the concert promoter was liable in his death because it negligently hired, retained or supervised Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Murray told police he used the surgical anesthetic propofol to treat Jackson’s insomnia. The coroner ruled propofol killed him.
AEG Live lawyers argue Jackson chose and supervised Murray, and their executives had no way of knowing the doctor was using the dangerous treatment.
The day Paris Jackson attempted suicide, AEG Live lawyers told reporters they couldn’t promise not to use the 15-year-old’s testimony in their defense. Since Paris is one of the plaintiffs, they were able to compel the teen to sit for two days of questioning in March.
Jackson lawyers, however, told the judge Tuesday that Paris is unavailable to appear in person since she is still being treated in a hospital. AEG Live is able to use the video recording of her deposition, which they began doing Tuesday afternoon.
The first clip shown to jurors was an answer to a question by AEG Live lawyer Marvin Putnam about former Jackson nanny Grace Rwaramba, who was fired two months before Jackson’s death.
“My dad didn’t like her, so he tried to, like, keep her away from us,” Paris said. “So he sent her on errands a lot.”
Her father was reluctant to fire Rwaramba because “he felt bad because she didn’t really have a lot of money,” she testified.
“He said she was sneaky and she wasn’t an honest person and she lied a lot,” Paris said.
Paris related an incident that happened when she was “really young.” She prefaced the story by saying it was “real creepy” and “this is going to freak you out.”
The nanny would sneak into a doctor’s hotel room and “he’d wake up and she’d be in his bed,” Paris said. “So, yeah, it’s kind of creepy.” It was unclear whose bed Paris was referring to since it was an isolated clip played without contex.
Putnam asked her why her father didn’t just make her stay away. “He sent her to India to get some stuff,” Paris said. “She kept coming back.”
The AEG Live defense team apparently played the video to counter Chase’s testimony about Rwaramba, who is expected to be a key Jackson witness later in the trial.
“This was the mother they knew,” Chase said of Rwaramba. “She was there when they were born.”
Paris’ ‘Daddy days’
“Being Daddy’s little girl, she was devastated, devastated and lost,” said Chase, who was with Paris every day until her attempted suicide on June 4, 2013. “She’s looking, for there was so much love between her and her father. She’s lost. She’s searching. She’s sad.”
The “entire household” is worried about how Paris is dealing with the loss of her father four years ago, Chase said.
“Every girl needs their father,” she said. “I would be devastated, too, if that happened to me.”
Paris “breaks down, she cries,” Chase said. “She talks about him.”
“She’s trying to find herself, trying to find who she is and it’s taking a lot of love and understanding to keep her together,” she said.
Chase told jurors about a very happy day for Paris — her 11th birthday party in April 2009. Her father told the children they could eat whatever they wanted, which was a rare treat for them. Cheese pizza, hot wings and banana splits were on the menu, she said.
The dining room was decorated with Michael Jackson posters and album covers, while his music was played “because this is what she wanted for her 11th birthday,” Chase testified. “She was just ecstatic.”
“Just when you thought that was enough, he took his children to the backyard for a Cirque du Soleil-type performance for her,” she said. Men on stilts, a woman inside a big balloon and circus acts “brought tears to my eyes … It was the most beautiful expression of love I’ve ever seen.”
“Paris hasn’t had a birthday party since,” Chase said. “She doesn’t want one.”
Paris “remembers the Daddy days and her birthday,” she said.
Prince Jackson, 16, also made a brief video appearance in Tuesday’s court session. AEG Live lawyers played a short clip from his deposition to counter Chase’s testimony that Jackson was so weak at one point in June that his son, then 12, had to help him walk up stairs.
“Was there ever a time that he came home from rehearsals so tired that you had to help him upstairs?” Putnam asked Prince.
“I wouldn’t be able to, but no,” Prince answered.
Chase testified about Prince’s relationship with his father and the devastation his death caused.
“Prince has always been, even at 12, the little man — daddy’s little man,” she said. “He wanted his father to be very proud of him, which Michael was.”
The teen has “the weight of the world is on his shoulders, the eldest, big brother and father figure to his siblings,” Chase testified. “It’s a lot for him, growing, liking girls. He wishes his father was here to give him advice. It’s devastating to him.”
Blanket’s ‘dance moves like his father’
Blanket, who was 7 when his father died, is now 11 and a fifth-grade graduate of his home school. “l keep thinking he’s older because he’s so smart,” Chase said.
“As the littlest, he has his older siblings to protect him, but I still think the youngest child will be the most affected,” she testified. “Being the baby, it’s a lot of remembering what daddy did, and it’s constant nonstop talking of him and his father’s relationship together.”
Like Prince and Paris, Blanket is “feeling a little lost as well,” Chase said.
He has to dress up each day, even though he is taught by a tutor at the family’s Calabasas, California, home. But he can wear what he wants on Fridays — which usually is a T-shirt from the Cirque du Soleil “Immortal” show based on his father’s music, Chase said. “He wears it constantly.”
“He does dance moves like his father,” she testified.
My ‘junior clients’
Michael Jackson hired Chase as his family’s chef without meeting her — based on the recommendation of Prince, Paris and Blanket, she testified.
She first met with her “junior clients” in the kitchen of the rented Los Angeles mansion where they were living while Jackson prepared for his comeback concerts.
The interview involved a discussion of “everything from food to video games,” she said. “They wanted to make sure I knew healthy food.”
“’We eat healthy,” Chase said the children told her. “We don’t eat any beef or pork. Daddy likes apricots, we like fruit and Blanket likes mangoes.”
“It just felt like this was a place I needed to be,” Chase said. “It was a beautiful beginning.”
Dining with Daddy
Meals were “their time to bond,” Chase said. “This was his time with them privately.”
Chase — a graduate of the Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy in Paris — would set the table with a different theme for each lunch, featuring recipes from different countries, so the children would learn something while eating.
“One day we would have east Indian food,” she said. “We would discuss what part of India we were eating from.”
The children looked forward to “comfort food Saturdays” — which might include fried chicken — to break up the monotony of healthy eating, she said.
Michael Jackson was “very much into Mexican” and his favorite meal was vegan tacos, she said. The Jackson lawyers showed jurors a photo of the dish Tuesday.
April: ‘A good feeling of love’
Music echoing through the Carolwood Drive mansion was a mix of Disney, Rolling Stones, David Bowie and classical, Chase said. Fireplaces stayed burning despite the warm temperatures outside. “It was a good feeling,” Chase testified.
Animals roaming through the home included a chocolate lab named Kenya, cats Katie and Thriller, a rabbit and a talking bird who would “whistle when pretty girls go by,” Chase said.
Prince had a pet rat he carried around, while Paris would host tea parties in her backyard doll house for the animals. The dog would jump in the pool with the kids when they swam on Saturdays, Chase said.
The children would “run to him like lighting” when their father came home from a rehearsal,” she said. “They would hang on him. It would bring tears to my eyes.”
Jackson would play games with the children and read to them at the end of the day, she said. “His personality with his children was warm and loving.”
Jackson was “a disciplinarian when it was needed,” she said. The children had to be in bed at a certain time and school started on schedule.
Jackson made sure school work was “interactive” for his children, including one science project for Paris that involved a night time hunt for snails, Chase said.
“So far we have a daddy snail, but we don’t have a mommy and a baby snail,” Paris told Chase one evening. That triggered a snail hunt around the mansion grounds, she said.
“I didn’t know how he would feel about his daughter and me out snail hunting at night,” she said, “but he was fine.”
Jackson joined them in constructing a snail farm in glass vases on the kitchen counter.
‘Box of Happiness’
After working for Jackson in March and April, Chase was suddenly dismissed in May because of what Jackson’s assistant told her was “a change of management.” She was not allowed to say good bye to the children, she said.
The assistant called her back a month later and asked her to return to the job, which she did. But this time, her paychecks would be cut by AEG Live, she was told.
Paris greeted her return with a gift. It was a shoe box filled with stuffed animals and coloring books she called a “Box of Happiness.”
Paris learned “giving” from her father, she said.
“She’d go get clothing maybe she wasn’t wearing anymore and she would cut them to make them into little skirts and hand sew them,” Chase said.
“I’m making these little skirts that I’m going to put in a box and ship overseas to others that aren’t as privileged,” she said Paris told her.
Empty pantry, declined credit
The happy home she left in April was changed when she returned in June, Chase said. It was three weeks before Jackson died there.
“The kitchen pantry was bare, and the only things in the refrigerator were Coca-Colas, Red Bull and Starbuck’s coffee drinks, which I know Mr. Jackson was not drinking,” the chef said.
When Chase went to the grocery store to stock up the Jackson credit card was declined, she said.
Jackson himself “looked very different,” she said. “He appeared very weak. He looked thinner, undernourished.”
The “obvious difference” in Jackson from April to June “concerned me greatly,” Chase said.
“He came to me and pulled me to the side and said ‘Where have you gone? I had no idea you left. I need you to keep me healthy. I’m working hard. They’re killing me,’” she testified.
“He told me ‘I need you to keep me healthy. I don’t know why you left. I need you to keep me and my children healthy.’ I looked at him with great concern,” she said. “When he said that … I thought he was being overworked. He was over rehearsed.”
Jackson was excited that she would again be feeding him, she said.
“I knew I had to get this man as healthy as a possible, but I did not know why he was deteriorating,” she said.
Another change she witnessed in June was the presence of Dr. Conrad Murray. He paid some visits in April, but he was there almost every day in June, she said. The doctor would bring empty oxygen tanks from Jackson’s upstairs bedroom each morning.
“I was concerned,” Chase testified. “I had no idea what they were used for. I didn’t ask, but it was strange.”
The world would later learn that Murray was using oxygen when he administered propofol each night to put Jackson to sleep.
‘A loud crash’
The Jackson lawsuit alleges that AEG Live executives, including CEO Randy Phillips and Co-CEO Paul Gongaware, pressured Murray to have Jackson at more rehearsals. They cite a meeting they believe was held at Jackson’s home around the second week of June as evidence.
Jackson, wearing a surgical mask and covered by several layers of clothing, appeared “scared and frightened” as he walked down his stairs to join Phillips, Gongaware, Dr. Murray and his manager Frank Dileo for the meeting in his parlor, Chase said.
“I immediately heard a loud crash,” she testified. A “very, very expensive vase” sitting next to Jackson’s chair was smashed.
Jackson “seemed very firm with them,” she said. The judge would not let her tell jurors what she heard him saying to the AEG Live executives. But there were “loud voices” and everyone was talking over each other,” she said.
Jackson left the meeting, followed by Dr. Murray, who seemed “very upset,” she said.
“I can’t take this s—t,” Murray said, according to Chase.
When she saw Jackson later, he seemed to have “the weight of the world on his shoulders,” she said. He was “concerned, frightened and scared; a lot of those emotions.”
The day he died
Chase has publicly recounted several times the events at the house the day Michael Jackson died, including in interviews and testimony in Murray’s criminal trial. She described it again Tuesday for jurors in the civil trial.
Dr. Murray “was panicked” as he screamed for Chase to call Prince and the security guard to go upstairs to help him.
“Hurry Dr. Murray needs you,” she said she told Prince, who was playing in the den. “There may be something wrong with your father.”
She returned to her lunch preparations, failing to alert the security guard in the shack near the kitchen door. Murray never asked her to call 911 for an ambulance.
Chase realized there was a grave problem when the housekeepers began crying “Mr. Jackson may be dead,” she said. “You could feel the energy in the house was changing.”
Prince screamed “Daddy” and Paris screamed a “blood curdling, out of her mind Daddy!”
“I grabbed them and held their hands and said ‘Let’s pray. Father God, please let nothing be wrong with this man.’”
Paramedics were soon running up the the stairs. Head of security Alberto Alvarez asked Chase to leave the house. “He’ll be fine,” Alvarez told her.
Chase did not see the Jackson children until she was allowed to visit with them weeks later. Katherine Jackson hired her as her family chef last July at the request of Prince, Paris and Blanket.
By Alan Duke | CNN