Jury rejects claim that Jackson promoter negligent
FILE - In this March 5, 2009 file photo, US singer Michael Jackson announces at a press conference that he is set to play ten live concerts at the London O2 Arena in July 2009, in London. A Los Angeles jury reached a verdict Wednesday Oct. 2, 2013, in Katherine Jackson's long-running negligence case against AEG Live LLC, which accuses the concert promoter of being responsible for hiring the doctor convicted of killing her son in 2009. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A jury cleared concert promoter AEG Live on Wednesday of negligence in the hiring of the doctor convicted of killing Michael Jackson.
The panel unanimously rejected a lawsuit brought by Jackson's mother that sought to financially punish AEG Live LLC, the promoters of her son's "This Is It" concerts planned for London.
"I couldn't be more pleased with the way the jury came out. They got it exactly right," AEG Live lead defense attorney Marvin S. Putnam said after the verdict was read.
Katherine Jackson told reporters she was OK after the verdict.
A victory could have meant hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for Katherine Jackson and the singer's three children and provided a rebuke of AEG Live LLC, the nation's second-largest concert promoter.
Lawyers for Katherine Jackson argued that AEG Live hired Dr. Conrad Murray to be the singer's physician without considering whether he was fit for the job.
AEG Live denied any wrongdoing and said it was Jackson who hired Murray.
Murray was convicted in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter after giving Jackson the overdose as he prepared for a series of comeback shows.
The case provided the closest look yet at Jackson's drug use and his battles against chronic pain and insomnia. It also took jurors behind the scenes in the rough and tumble world of negotiations with one of the world's most famous entertainers looking to solidify his legendary status after scandal interrupted his career.
Witnesses said he saw the "This Is It" concerts as a chance for personal redemption after being acquitted of child molestation.
But as the opening date of the shows approached, associates testified that he had bouts of insecurity and agonized over his inability to sleep. They said he turned to the drug propofol and found Murray, who was willing to buy it in bulk and administer it to him on a nightly basis even though it is not meant to be used outside operating rooms.
Testimony at the civil trial showed that only Jackson and Murray knew he was taking the drug.
In his closing argument, AEG Live attorney Marvin Putnam told jurors that the company would have pulled the plug on the shows if they knew he was using the anesthetic.
"AEG would have never agreed to finance this tour if they knew Mr. Jackson was playing Russian roulette in his bedroom every night,"
Brian Panish, a lawyer for the Jackson family, countered that AEG Live was negligent by not looking far enough to find out what it needed to know about Murray. He claimed in his closing argument that the lure of riches turned the company and Murray into mercenaries who sacrificed the pop star's life in a quest to boost their own fortunes.
Panish asked jurors: "Do people do things they shouldn't do for money? People do it every day."
He said a $150,000-a-month contract to care for Jackson was a lifeline to help Murray climb out of his financial troubles, which included $500,000 in debt. AEG Live, meanwhile, had only one interest — launching a world tour for the King of Pop that would yield untold millions in profits, the lawyer said.
AEG Live's lawyers framed the case as being about personal choice, saying Jackson made bad choices about the drug that killed him and the doctor who provided it. They said he was the architect of his own demise and no one else can be blamed.