Opening Statements Begin in New Michael Jackson Trial; Questions Remain About What Will Be Revealed

Jeremy Blacklow
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With jury selection complete, opening statements began Monday morning in the new trial of Katherine Jackson vs. AEG Live.

Katherine, also representing Michael Jackson's children, Michael Jr., Paris-Michael Katherine, and Prince Michael, is suing the concert promoter for the pop star’s wrongful death, claiming that the company is liable since AEG Live hired Dr. Conrad Murray as Michael's personal physician.

The downtown L.A. courthouse was a media circus Monday, as Katherine – who was greeted with well wishes from fans outside the courthouse – and other family members, including siblings Rebbie and Randy, headed into court. Jurors will earn $15 a day to listen to what's expected to be several months of testimony.In his opening statements, attorney for the plaintiff Brian Panish focused on telling the six-man and six-woman jury that AEG Live ignored "red flags" and failed to do a proper background check on Dr. Murray. He also played "You Are My Life," a song that Jackson wrote for his three children, as Katherine wiped away tears in the courtroom. Panish claims that the doctor's financial woes -- asking to be paid $5 million to care for Michael -- should have indicated to AEG Live that he was "financially desperate." Panish also pointed out that it was strange that Dr. Murray was hired as a cardiologist, even though "Michael Jackson didn't have any problems with his heart.''

AEG Live lawyer Marvin Putnam, meanwhile, warned the jury during his opening statement "we're going to show some ugly stuff," adding: "The truth is, Michael Jackson fooled everyone. He made sure that no one, nobody, knew his deepest darkest secrets."

A Plaintiffs' First Amended Witness List became available Monday (filed April 15), which confirmed that several big-name celebrities could be called to the stand. Among the more famous on the 109-person potentials list: Lou "The Hulk" Ferrigno, Quincy Jones, Spike Lee, "This is It" director Kenny Ortega, Sharon Osbourne, Ray Parker Jr., Amy Pascal (co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment), Michael’s ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley, Diana Ross, and Prince Rogers Nelson (you probably know him as "Prince"). Fifteen Jackson family members were also on the list – including Janet, Jermaine, Marlon, Jackie, Randy, Katherine, Paris, and Prince Michael. Other recognizable names include Dr. Conrad Murray, lawyer John Branca, choreographer Travis Payne, Debbie Rowe (the biological mother of Michael’s kids), journalist Barry Siegel, and Dr. Tohme Tohme.

On Sunday, a startling new report came out about Michael's drug use from his ex-maid, Adrian McManus, who told The Daily Mail that the singer was a, "messed up, depraved junkie" who was "manipulative, twisted, and demonic." She also claimed workers at his L.A. estate had found the pop star "dead" on two separate occasions.

Both the plaintiff and defendants have concerns about what may come out during this trial. Jackson estate lawyers have expressed concerns over privacy regarding the release of certain medical records. AEG lawyers have claimed that several of the aforementioned witnesses are not qualified to take the stand. Judge Yvette Palazuelos is overseeing the case, and in a series of rulings last week, she indicated that she was inclined to both allow much of the plaintiffs' witness testimony, and to allow the medical records to be submitted as evidence. She has also denied media requests to televise the trial.

The case will revolve around whether or not AEG Live actually hired Dr. Murray. AEG Live claims that a proposed contract between Dr. Murray and AEG Live was never executed. The plaintiffs claim that an implied contract took place and that the company gave little consideration to signs that the doctor was in debt and not board certified.

One of the most important key pieces of evidence is an email written from Paul Gongaware, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Concerts West (a division of AEG Live) to tour director Kenny Ortega that expressed concerns over Dr. Murray keeping Michael from a rehearsal.

"We want to remind (Murray) that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary. We want to remind him what is expected of him," Gongaware wrote.

Check back here for further updates from the first day of the trial.

(with reporting from CNS news wires)

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