Concert promoter AEG Live was not negligent in the death of Michael Jackson and the singer’s mother and children shouldn’t receive any money in damages, a jury found Wednesday.
After four days of deliberations, the Los Angeles Superior Court panel found that Dr. Conrad Murray, who gave the pop star a deadly dose of a powerful anesthetic, was not unfit or incompetent to perform the work for which he was hired.
“The jury’s decision completely vindicates AEG Live, confirming what we have known from the start – that although Michael Jackson’s death was a terrible tragedy, it was not a tragedy of AEG Live’s making,” says AEG attorney Marvin Putnam.
During the civil trial, which started in April, attorneys argued over whether Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009, was his doctor’s fault or his own, and whether Murray was Jackson’s employee or the concert promoter’s. The jury began deliberating on Sept. 26.
Murray was not party to the proceedings. The doctor, who claims to be destitute, was convicted of manslaughter in Jackson’s death in November 2011 and is scheduled to be released from jail on Oct. 28.
A criminal trial jury two years ago found that Murray caused Jackson’s death by carelessly administering large doses of the milky anesthetic propofol in the singer’s bedroom.
Among the 58 witnesses who testified during the five-month AEG civil trial was lead plaintiff Katherine Jackson, who said her son “loved everybody” and “the most difficult thing is to sit in this court and listen to all the bad things they’re saying about my son. A lot of those things are just not the truth.”
Playing Russian Roulette
Attorneys for AEG agreed that Jackson’s death at age 50 was a tragedy, but not one that the company caused. Witnesses testified that Jackson shopped for a doctor who would secretly give him propofol behind closed doors to help him sleep.
AEG would not have financed Jackson’s This Is It tour “if it knew Mr. Jackson was playing Russian roulette in his bedroom every night,” AEG lawyer Marvin Putnam said during three days of closing arguments. “The sad truth is Mr. Jackson’s death was caused by his choices and it would have happened no matter what – with or without AEG Live.”
Jackson attorneys claimed AEG put Murray on its payroll to push Jackson through a 50-concert comeback tour despite indications that he was in frail health.
Risk vs. Profit
After Jackson missed a few rehearsals and Murray expressed concern about Jackson’s health, AEG CEO Paul Gongaware sent an email allegedly stating, “You remind Murray who’s paying his bill,” according to trial testimony.
AEG Live “chose to run the risk and make a huge profit,” argued Jackson family attorney Brian Panish, who suggested Jackson was 20 percent to blame. “It’s about shared responsibility.”