Michael Jackson had a long-term drug addiction which he and his family kept secret from the world, and which ultimately killed him, AEG Live’s lawyer Marvin Putnam told an LA court yesterday, as the live music giant began its defence in the long-running Jacksons v AEG court case.
As much previously reported, the Jackson family claim that the AEG concert company should be held liable for the death of the late king of pop because they, as promoters of the singer’s ill-fated ‘This Is It’ venture, hired and mismanaged Conrad Murray, the doctor convicted for causing the popstar’s death in 2009 through negligent treatment. AEG counters that Jackson himself hired and managed the medic.
The Jackson family’s case involved reviewing all the ‘red flags’ that, their lawyers argued, should have made AEG bosses concerned about Michael Jackson’s health, and Murray’s treatment of the star, as the ‘This Is It’ show went into production. Top execs at the live firm were portrayed as showing little concern for their artists, especially those who had worked with Jackson before and therefore – Team Jackson said – should have known about the singer’s dependency on prescription drugs.
Though, the Jackson team has argued, the king of pop wasn’t actually an addict, and while he displayed enough ill health in spring 2009 that AEG should have intervened, the singer was actually fit enough to do a long London residency, world tour and Vegas show – some of the ‘This Is It’ spin-offs discussed – providing such activity was paced appropriately. It’s important for the Jacksons that the court believes the singer had the ability to deliver those shows, because that will impact on any damages if the Jackson family prevail.
Having already asked some tough questions of Katherine Jackson on Monday about her knowledge of her son’s drug issues – basically suggesting that current and past comments she’d made about that knowledge conflicted – Putnam yesterday kicked off his defence presentation – according to CNN – by saying the Jackson family “kept [Michael's] private world private as best they could and now they would like to blame somebody else for things that only they knew privately”. AEG bosses couldn’t have known about the extent of Jackson’s drug dependency, Putnam will argue, but the singer’s family did, and yet did nothing about it.
Previewing testimonies still to come, Putnam yesterday promised to bring to the witness stand a line of doctors who provided treatment and medications to Jackson over the years. He is also likely to call various members of the Jackson family, including Katherine herself, the final witness called by the plaintiffs late last week. Katherine, of course, is the main litigant on the lawsuit against AEG.
Getting started yesterday, Putnam said that – while various emails have been presented in court showing that AEG executives were involved in discussions about Jackson’s health during the ‘This Is It’ rehearsals, most initiated by concerns expressed by those actually involved in preparations for the show – these were not as significant as has been suggested; ie in the context of the wider busyness of a company like AEG, these emails do not mean that Jackson’s health was at the top of any agenda in June 2009.
“They had little interaction with Michael Jackson in terms of the production and promotion”, Putnam said of bosses at AEG, and so did not and could not have known about the dangerous treatments occurring at the singer’s rented LA home.
The case continues. Testimonies are now expected to run into September.