Michael Jackson's "ugly" €40bn wrongful death trial kicks off
The late singer's family is suing entertainment company AEG for billions for his wrongful death.
Michael Jackson's 2009 death is as much talked about now as it was four years ago. Following the conviction of Dr Conrad Murray - Jackson's physician who was hired by entertainment company AEG - for involuntary manslaughter, and the never-ending drama surrounding the custody of his children, he is as much gossip fodder as he was in his life.
The Jackson family, comprising of the singer's mother and his three children Paris, Prince and 'Blanket', are suing billionaire concert promoter Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) in a wrongful death suit, alleging that he threatened to end Jackson's career if he didn't continue his series of comeback concerts in London. The company also hired Dr Murray, who delivered the lethal dose of anesthetic propofol, which eventually killed the star.
According to US legal experts, due to the fact that this is a civil suit, several elements that were excluded from Dr Murray's criminal trial are expected to be introduced.
The suit states that AEG "hired and controlled" the convicted physician, adding that Jackon was: "A severely, visibly ill pop star with a known history of drug problems, a financially desperate doctor who demanded highly unusual, life-saving medical equipment, and enormous pressure on the doctor to ensure the pop star's performance (instead of his well-being).
"AEG should have realized this was a dangerous cocktail."
The defendant's lawyers warned yesterday that "ugly stuff" will emerge throughout the trial, which is expected to last into the summer. It is reported that the legal team will also revisit Jackson's child molestation accusations from the 1990s, his catalogue of debt and his drug use.
The Jackson family will be required to prove that the King of Pop was not responsible for his own death, as well as proving how much money he would have earned had he lived.
The star-studded witness list reads like a who's who of Old Hollywood, including his mother, sister and three children, as well as Sharon Osbourne, Quincy Jones, Spike Lee Jr. Lisa Marie Presley and Diana Ross.
Stanley Goldman, a professor at Loyola Law School, told the LA Times: "All sorts of things will be let in that weren't let in at the criminal trial. There's much more chance of a celebrity-filled, gossipy circus."
The company is also one of the most important political players in Los Angeles, building LA Live and the Staples Center and working with the city to build a downtown football stadium in an effort to attract a professional team. But AEG has been in upheaval for months, with owner Philip Anschutz putting it on the market and then just as suddenly pulling it off.
In many ways, Jackson himself will be put on the stand. Not only do the plaintiffs have to persuade jurors that AEG is to blame for his death, but to show how much he would have earned had he lived. AEG will try to prove that not only is it not to blame, but that Jackson's erratic behavior had diminished his earning power.
AEG provided Jackson with €28m, comprising of a €12.5m line of credit, €3.5m advance, €6m to cover production costs of his This is It tour and a €90,000 a month home in LA.
Putnam also warned of what was to come during the trial. He said there was a public Jackson and a private Jackson, where his secrets were concealed.
“We are going to show some ugly stuff,” said AEG's attorney, Marvin Putnam said. “It’s really true.” He added that Murray was Jackson's choice of doctor and insisted he join him in London. His €130,000-per-month salary was covered under Jackson's advance from AEG.
The concert promoter has no choice to reveal Jackson's "deepest, darkest secret" because the company must defend itself from the accusation from Jackson's family that it is responsible for the pop icon's death, he added.
Jackson died two weeks before his "This Is It" comeback concerts were supposed to have kicked off. The coroner ruled Jackson died from a fatal combination of sedatives and propofol, a surgical anesthetic that Murray said he used to put Jackson to sleep almost every night in the month before his death.
The family argues that AEG knew about Michael's fragil econdition, but continued to put pressure on boht him and Dr Murray to meet their concert deadlines.
One of the Jacksons' experts, Arthur Erk, a certified pubic accountant estimated that Michael Jackson could have earned €1 billion by taking his "This Is It" tour around the world. He and AEG had discussed the possibility of extending the show run past the 50 dates agreed in London.
AEG caare expected to argue that Jackson's past failures diminished the potential earnings. None of the family members can offer an opinion on whether or not Murray was hired by AEG.