LOS ANGELES – Lawyers for Michael Jackson’s mother will launch their case Monday for massive compensation from the promoter of his last doomed tour, at the trial over the late King of Pop’s 2009 death.
Opening statements are due in Los Angeles at the wrongful death trial pitting Katherine Jackson against AEG Live, whom she blames for negligently hiring Conrad Murray, the doctor convicted over his killing.
Underlining the high stakes, lawyers from both sides have spent an unusually long four weeks picking the 12-member jury – six men and six women— who will decide whether the promoters have to pay out potentially billions of dollars.
Murray, convicted and jailed for involuntary manslaughter in 2011 for giving the singer an overdose of propofol, could be called to give evidence, but has said he will plead right to remain silent to avoid incriminating himself.
The late pop star’s 82-year-old mother, as well as his two elder children, will also give evidence in the trial that comes nearly four years after his death, and could last more than three months.
Jackson died at his Los Angeles mansion on June 25, 2009 aged 50, from an overdose of the powerful sedative propofol, administered by Murray to help the “Thriller” legend deal with chronic insomnia.
At the time of his death, he was rehearsing for a series of 50 shows in London, organized with the Anschutz Entertainment Group in what was seen as an attempt to revive his career, and also to ease his financial woes.
Jackson’s mother claims that AEG Live pushed her son too hard to prepare for the London shows.
But AEG claims that Jackson had a history of drug abuse long before the singer met Murray, hired to care for him before and during the shows at London’s O2 Arena.
“AEG had legal duties to Michael Jackson to treat him safely and to not put him in harm’s way,” according to the lawsuit, cited by the LA Times.
“But AEG, despite its knowledge of Michael Jackson’s physical condition, breached those duties by putting its desire for massive profits from the tour over the health and safety of Michael Jackson.”
Judge Yvette Palazuelos has allowed testimony about child molestation charges against Jackson to be heard, but she has refused to allow testimony notably about the parentage of Jackson’s three children.
She has yet to rule on whether Jackson’s medical records could be unsealed, to be used in evidence.
Celebrity news website TMZ says Jackson’s mother and his three children— Prince, 16, Paris, 14 and 11-year-old “Blanket”- want over $40 billion from AEG for loss of future earnings. AEG claims the figure is “preposterous.”
Murray broke his silence earlier this month to say he does not want to testify at the trial to avoid incriminating himself for his own appeal— which he filed last week.
“I am an innocent man… I maintain that innocence,” he told CNN on April 2, adding: “I am extremely sorry that Michael has passed. It’s a tremendous loss for me… He was very close to me… we were absolutely great friends.”
Unlike at Murray’s trial two years ago, there will be no live TV coverage of proceedings at the LA Superior Court, which will be held amid tight security and huge media interest.
The trial is due to start at 10:00 am (1700 GMT) Monday. The judge has ordered lawyers to limit opening statements to two-and-a-half hours each, according to the LA Times.