LOS ANGELES, Calif. — AEG Live did not hire Dr. Conrad Murray as Michael Jackson’s personal physician and was therefore not responsible for supervising him as he cared for the singer before his never-realized “This Is It” comeback shows, an attorney for the concert promoter told a jury today.
“If anyone hired Dr. Murray it was Mr. Jackson, not AEG Live,” lawyer Marvin Putnam told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury during his day-long closing argument in Katherine Jackson’s wrongful death/negligence suit against the entertainment conglomerate.
The attorney insisted AEG Live had no role in the death of the King of Pop.
“All they wanted to do was put on a concert,” Putnam said.
Although a contract was drafted in which AEG Live intended to advance $150,000 a month to Murray on Jackson’s behalf, the payments would have had to be repaid by Jackson, Putnam said.
“They (AEG Live) never paid (Murray) because they never hired him to go on tour,” Putnam said.
Murray never received any money under the draft contract because Jackson died June 25, 2009, of acute propofol intoxication before he could sign it, the attorney argued. Putnam noted that Murray had treated Jackson and his children since 2006, long before AEG Live ever heard of him.
“It was not for AEG Live to interfere with that long-time, doctor-patient relationship,” he said.
Putnam said it would be wrong to hold AEG Live responsible for the death of Jackson, saying the singer made bad choices — including insisting on being given propofol to help him sleep.
“You can’t save someone. They have to save themselves,” Putnam said.
“If that weren’t the case, everyone would be responsible for everyone else’s decisions.”
Putnam said even Murray understood who employed him.
“Dr. Murray and AEG Live both understood that he was working for Michael Jackson, not AEG live,” Putnam said.
Putnam displayed for jurors a photo they saw frequently during trial, showing Jackson appearing thin and gaunt less than a week before his death.
Next to that image was a photo of the singer appearing healthy on stage during rehearsals four days later.
Putnam said the plaintiffs’ lawyers tried to use the earlier photo to show AEG Live was on notice Jackson was in poor health. But the photo was taken in the singer’s dressing room, where no company executive ever went, Putnam said.
“The whole thinness thing is just a big distraction,” Putnam said.
“As the coroner said, Mr. Jackson did not die because he was too thin.”
He also showed a video of Jackson taken 20 days before his death. In it, the entertainer was lucid and danced easily as he directed rehearsals for “They Don’t Really Care About Us.”
“He looks great, he looks incredible,” Putnam said. “There is nothing that remotely suggests Mr. Jackson was in trouble.”
The day night before his death, Jackson performed flawlessly during practice sessions, Putnam said.
“Go and see how he looks at rehearsals,” Putnam said. “Not bad, he’s older than me.”
Outwardly, Jackson appeared fine to the people at AEG Live, Putnam said.
The singer appeared ill only on June 19, 2009, when rehearsals had to be cut short, Putnam said.
But Jackson’s appearance — described as “lost, cold and afraid” by “This Is It” tour director Kenny Ortega — gave no hint of what was going on with Murray behind the scenes, Putnam said.
“Mr. Jackson’s symptoms say nothing about what Dr. Murray was doing in Mr. Jackson’s locked bedroom,” Putnam said. “None of these symptoms pointed to Dr. Murray.”
The singer also gave no indication that Murray was giving him propofol to help combat his insomnia, Putnam said.
“Mr. Jackson continued to conceal what was going on because this was his tour,” Putnam said.
Jackson and Murray told AEG Live officials that the pop star was capable of performing the concerts, Putnam said.
“What more can a reasonable person do if a grown man says he feels fine?” Putnam asked.
When Jackson pursued his more than decade-long quest for propofol, he cast aside warnings from health professionals who did not accommodate him and “doctor-shopped” to find someone who would, the attorney claimed.
“He had the power to stop his abuse,” Putnam said. “He made his own choices. You know he chose Dr. Murray and he chose propofol. That was Mr. Jackson’s choice. Mr. Jackson knew the consequences of pursuing propofol.”
On Tuesday, Jackson family attorney Brian Panish told jurors that AEG Live pushed the pop superstar to be prepared for his planned 50-concert series in London, and it hired Murray to ensure he would be ready — despite the singer’s known history of prescription drug abuse.
“They chose to run the risk and make a huge profit,” Panish said.
“But they lost and they are responsible.”
Panish contended that Jackson had earnings potential of up to $1.2 billion if he had lived to perform the “This Is It” concerts, along with subsequent performances worldwide, a Las Vegas show and a movie deal. He recommended that jurors allocate the total damage award at 30 percent each to the singer’s three children and 10 percent to his mother.
“Mrs. Jackson lost a son and the children lost a father,” Panish said.
Panish also suggested non-economic damages of around $290 million for Katherine Jackson and the singer’s children — which would equal roughly $1.5 billion in economic and non-economic damages.
He also showed a video montage of Jackson at various stages of his career, performing hits as both a child and an adult.
The 83-year-old Jackson family matriarch sued in September 2010 on behalf of herself and her son’s three children, Michael Jr., Paris-Michael Katherine and Prince Michael, claiming the company hired Murray to be Jackson’s personal physician.
Jackson died at age 50 at a rented Holmby Hills estate. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for administering the powerful anesthetic propofol to the singer and was sentenced in November 2011 to four years in the Los Angeles County men’s jail.
Putnam maintained during the trial that his clients never hired Murray and that the cardiologist, in fact, had been one of many doctors who had treated the singer in the past. Putnam also said Jackson had a drug problem for years before he entered into any agreements to perform on behalf of AEG Live.
Putnam has insisted that a proposed contract between Murray and AEG Live was never executed before Jackson’s death. However, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos found that a contract could be implied by various actions taken by the company, including discussions to pay him $150,000 a month.
Attorneys for the Jacksons maintain that AEG Live, in allegedly hiring Murray, gave little consideration to red flags showing that the doctor was in debt and not a board-certified cardiologist.
Palazuelos dismissed Timothy Leiweke, AEG Inc.’s former president and chief executive officer, and that company as defendants before trial. Several months into the trial, she also tossed all allegations against Phillips and Paul Gongaware, co-chief executive officer of Concerts West — a division of AEG Live.
Bill Hetherman | City News Service