AEG Found NOT Liable For Michael Jackson’s Death

Katherine Jackson, 83, at the wrongful death trial of promoter AEG; she still believes AEG drove Michael Jackson to death and stole his money (Courtesy: CNN)

Katherine Jackson, 83, the face of grief at the trial of music promoter AEG for the wrongful death of her son, Michael jackson; Katherine was on the witness stand for nine hours over three days.  She was at turns forgetful, combative, and confused.  She still believes AEG drove Michael Jackson to death and stole his money.   Joe jackson, her husband, appears to be sitting beside her (Courtesy: CNN)

I know that I haven’t been following events in the aftermath of Jackson’s death, and the prosecution and conviction of his quack physician, Conrad Murray.  However, I felt that the Jackson family‘s pursuit of AEG in Jackson’s death was not going to end in their favor.  It seemed like hysteria, not prudence, was driving this lawsuit.  The Jacksons had a ready-made conspiracy theory narrative: that AEG wanted Michael‘s money,  that AEG was manipulating, pushing and punishing Michael with this series of 50 concerts in London, and that AEG eventually killed him with a doctor who was inept and incompetent, and may have been in cahoots with them to sedate Michael into the Next World.

Thing is, something like the theory has to be based in fact, and there has to physical as well as circumstantial evidence and witnesses to support and to prove the case.   Something like this ain’t coming from Perry Mason.   The Jackson family, with 83-year-old Katherine Jackson suing as chief plaintiff on behalf of Michael’s surviving children and plaintiffs, Paris, Prince Michael, and Blanket (Prince Michael II), were standing on shaky ground.   Nothing like that was happening.  The Jacksons, in effect, blew a large wad of money to try to get hold of Michael’s money.   They were asking up to $10 billion.  The real question now is, what’s next?

A Los Angeles jury decided Wednesday that AEG Live hired Dr. Conrad Murray, but also concluded that the concert promoter was not liable for Michael Jackson‘s drug overdose death.

The jury decided that Murray was competent, so even though AEG Live hired him, it was not liable for Jackson’s death and didn’t owe the Jackson family millions of dollars in compensation.

“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,” attorney Marvin Putnam said in a written statement.

The verdict brings the five-month-long trial to a close.

The jury accepted AEG Live lawyers’ arguments that the company was not negligent because its executives had no way of knowing that Murray — licensed to practice in four states and never sued for malpractice — was a risk to Jackson. The singer was a secretive drug addict who kept even his closest relatives in the dark about his use of propofol to sleep, they contended.

Katherine Jackson and her family members left the courthouse without comment.  There had been applause in the courtroom from the Jackson camp when it was announced that AEG did hire Conrad Murray, but when Murray was found to be competent, gasps of disbelief were heard.   The jurors, however, have spoken:

Jurors in the Michael Jackson wrongful-death case sided with AEG Live that the singer’s death was a tragedy — but not one the concert promoter was responsible for.

After three days of deliberation, the jury unanimously agreed that AEG Live hired the doctor, who gave the singer a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol. But they said Dr. Conrad Murray was competent and awarded no money to the pop star’s family.

“There are really no winners in this,” jury foreman Gregg Darden said. Somebody had to die for us to be here. … it was really a tragic situation.”

Darden said the jurors struggled with questions about Murray. They found him competent to serve as a general practitioner — he had a medical license from an accredited university.

“We felt he was competent,” Darden said. “That doesn’t mean we felt he was ethical. If ethical was in the question, it might have been a different outcome. In the end, he was very unethical. He did something he shouldn’t have done. ”

Attorneys for the family had said that economic damages could surpass $1 billion. They wanted each of Jackson’s children awarded $85 million and another $35 million paid to Katherine Jackson.

I sure didn’t feel Murray was ethical (Conrad Murray is scheduled to be released from prison on good behavior in three weeks time). I think that his incompetence, at least in this particular case, stemmed from his walking the fine line with Jackson and his addictions as well as being admitted to the pop star’s inner world.  I think Murray took it all for granted and shirked his responsibility towards his patient.  His hubris and arrogance is still off-putting, even though the verdict seems to vindicate him.  The jury took pains to assert that this was not the case at all.  

Valerie Wass, Murray’s appellate attorney, said the verdict wouldn’t help the physician’s appeal of his involuntary manslaughter conviction, but it may help “in the court of public opinion.

“Hopefully, it will vindicate him in a small way,” she said.

Murray, who is at the Men’s Central Jail, is due to be released in 26 days, she said.

But when told of Wass’ comment, Barden criticized Murray’s treatment of Jackson.

“We felt he was competent,” Barden said. “That doesn’t mean we felt he was ethical. If ethical was in the question, it might have been a different outcome. In the end, he was very unethical. He did something he shouldn’t have done. ”

He added later: “I don’t see this as a vindication of Dr. Murray. I would not hire him as my doctor.”

The family’s attorney painted a picture of a cold, calculating entertainment enterprise that failed to notice that Murray was financially desperate and then pushed the physician to get Jackson ready to tour even though the singer was in frail health and was crippled by fear.

In coming to their verdict, “the jury agreed that AEG hired Murray, but only to treat dehydration and other issues to keep tour ready, and  not to inject him with Propofol. Therefore, the promoter couldn’t be held responsible for the final result since Murray was acting outside of the scope for which AEG hired him.”

The extent of Jackson’s drug abuse, however, was also revealed in public.  No surprise here, as far as I am concerned, but I know Katherine didn’t want to hear it.

AEG Live, meanwhile, laid out Jackson’s medical history, presenting testimony about his use of drugs, including the powerful painkiller Demerol, for pain stemming from an accident that occurred decades ago while he was filming a Pepsi commercial. Jackson had no trace of that drug in his system when he died.

The lawyers called witnesses who recounted Jackson’s use of propofol dating back to the 1990s. In 1997, two German doctors administered the anesthetic to help the singer sleep between shows in Munich.

A few years later, Jackson requested the anesthetic from a dental anesthesiologist who refused, as did another doctor who testified that Jackson kept a box of propofol in his bedroom at Neverland Ranch.

The Mirror in Britain went into a bit more detail about Jackson’s drug use.  I know, I know, it’s a right-wing screed, but:

Throughout the bloody court case the star’s dependency on prescription was laid bare as well as his battle against chronic insomnia and further allegations of abuse of young children.

At one point it was revealed drug addled Jackson had a secret implant usually given to severe heroin addicts.

The father-of-three had a “Narcan implant”, which is administered by doctors as a last effort to halt the effects of them killing themselves as they chase illegal highs.

The medical move came in 2003 as he tried a raft of ways to control his addiction as he consumed huge amounts of drugs.

The revelation has emerged from one of the Jackson’s former physicians in the trial.

It has remained a secret for the last decade.

That physician was David Fournier, another anesthesiologist, who “believed Jackson had deceived him by not telling him about a ‘Narcan implant’ Jackson had inserted before a surgical procedure Fournier was helping with.”

Still another physician called to the stand was Dr. Allan Metzger, a family friend who treated Michael for real physical pain.   But when Michael sought to obtain his “milk”—as he called Propofol—from Metzger for his insomnia, the doctor refused and warned him that sustained dependence on these kinds of medications, especially those that could only be administered in hospitals, could lead to life-threatening events in the future.

AEG presented several witnesses who pointed to the discrepancy between what some people knew and what others didn’t about Michael’s drug abuse.  And if Michael would lie about this, he could lie about other things as well.  But all AEG wanted was for him to fulfill his contract to perform those shows in London, and they would have done just about anything, including hiring the doctor of his choice, to achieve this result.  They just did not care how Murray got Jackson to rehearsals relatively fit and alert.  They didn’t want to know.

Jackson family attorneys, however, feel that they have grounds for an appeal.  Yeah, right.   Somebody should call a halt to that mess right now.  I’ll bet the money to pay the lawyers sure aren’t coming from their personal stash of cash, but from the estate.  The Jacksons would have done much better not pursuing a wrongful death case, but getting after AEG to account for monies that Katherine (pushed by her husband Joe and the other kids) claims are not being paid to the estate.  Finding for the plaintiffs in a case like this would have forced these guys to crack open the accounting books and see whether incompetence or corruption is warranted.

Be that as it may, I still think that this wrongful death lawsuit was also the impetus of a financial grab by those family members who were cut out of the will. If the jury had found for the plaintiffs, it would have been the Jackson brothers and others’  opportunity to finally assert themselves over Michael’s money.  The grab failed, and I do mean, failed miserably.

When Katherine finally passes—and I think that with the conclusion of this case that it may not be too much longer to wait—the remainder of her money from Michael’s estate may pass to her heirs designated.  But for Michael’s children—biologically his or not—they are rapidly coming of age, and hopefully they are going to be long-lived and will have kids of their own.  AEG is going to have to loosen their hold on the estate in the event of Michael’s kids maturing, and I would not be surprised if there are some lawsuits in the future because John Branca and company have gotten too comfortable off the proceeds. It doesn’t matter whether it is Michael or Branca: money always makes you think that you can do no wrong.

~ by blksista on October 2, 2013.

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