LOS ANGELES (AP) — A lawyer for Michael Jackson's family asked a jury on Tuesday to act as the conscience of the community and award damages for the loss of the pop star's life.
Attorney Brian Panish delivered his closing argument in a packed courtroom, explaining why jurors should believe that concert promoter AEG Live LLC was negligent for hiring the doctor whose actions led to Jackson's death.
Panish played videotapes of testimony from the 21-week civil trial and said it's clear that AEG hired Dr. Conrad Murray, even though the contract with him may have been more oral than written.
AEG Live is accused of failing to investigate Murray's background because the company was anxious to launch lucrative concerts.
Murray was convicted in 2011 of giving Jackson an overdose of the anesthetic propofol as he tried to sleep during preparations for his "This Is It" concerts in London. Some witnesses said Jackson was ailing at the time.
The promoter claims it was Jackson who insisted that Murray treat him because the former cardiologist was giving him propofol as a sleep aid.
AEG Live drafted a contract for Murray's services, according to testimony, but it was never signed by anyone except Murray before Jackson died.
The lawyers who brought the suit on behalf of Katherine Jackson and the superstar's children were allotted four hours on Tuesday for their initial presentation.
Attorneys for AEG will speak on Wednesday, also for four hours.
The plaintiffs, who have the burden of proof, get to speak a second time. In that grand finale, probably on Thursday, they are likely to tell jurors how much money the Jacksons are seeking for the loss of the superstar.
They are expected to ask for more than $1 billion, citing testimony of experts who said Jackson had a long lucrative career ahead of him when he died at the age of 50.
The judge moved the proceedings from her tiny courtroom to a larger courtroom to accommodate media, spectators, lawyers and Jackson fans who line up daily for a lottery to win seats in the courtroom.
The fans huddle and discuss the case in the hallway and wait to see Katherine Jackson enter the courtroom. Some wear T-shirts emblazoned with her picture and messages of support.
On Monday, Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos gave the jury legal instructions. Everyone has biases, she said, but they must not be swayed by prejudice, sympathy or public opinion while deliberating. They also were told how to evaluate evidence and witnesses.
If the jury finds that damages should be assessed, the judge said they must not consider such issues as the grief endured by the Jackson family or the wealth of both sides in the bitterly fought case.
The instructions lasted about 30 minutes, a relatively short time because there is really just one central issue in the case: Who hired Murray? Was it AEG Live or Michael Jackson?
A unanimous verdict is not required. Only nine of the 12 jurors must agree.