By Jeff Gottlieb and Corina Knoll
8:42 PM EDT, April 29, 2013
The attorney for Michael Jackson’s family told the jury Monday that AEG missed warning after warning about the singer's physical and mental condition and the doctor hired to treat him.
During his opening argument, attorney Brian Panish told the jury about a series of emails between AEG executives and people involved in the planned “This Is It” comeback tour discussing Jackson's mental and physical condition and Dr. Conrad Murray, who was treating the pop singer.
“We want to remind him that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary,” said an email from Paul Gongaware, talking about Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson a lethal overdose of the anesthetic propofol.
A key to the wrongful death case brought by Jackson’s mother and three children is whether Murray was working for the singer or Anschutz Entertainment Group, which built Staples Center and LA Live and owns arenas and stadiums worldwide.
In his opening statement, AEG's attorney, Marvin Putnam, said Murray was Jackson's choice and that AEG executives didn't understand why the singer wanted to bring him to London, where there were any number of excellent doctors.
Putnam said Murray worked for Jackson and that the $150,000 a month that AEG was supposed to pay him was an advance to Jackson, just as it had advanced him funds to pay for other production costs and his rented mansion in Holmby Hills.
When asked by an LAPD detective two days after Jackson's death whom he worked for, Murray replied, “I am an employee for Michael Jackson but paid through AEG. Does that help you?”
Putnam also warned of what was to come during the trial. He said there was a public Jackson and a private Jackson, where his secrets were concealed.
“We are going to show some ugly stuff,” Putnam said. “It’s really true.”
Panish said AEG claimed it had checked out Murray but hadn't, and that AEG didn't know the doctor was deep in dept.
Panish showed the jury an email from AEG executive Randy Phillips to Kenny Ortega, the tour director, after Ortega had expressed concerns about Jackson's condition. He said this was just one example of AEG missing a "red flag."
“Kenny, it is critical that neither you, me or anyone around the show become amateur psychiatrists or physicians. I had a lengthy coversation with Dr. Murray, who I am gaining immense respect for as I get to deal with him more.... This doctor is extremely successful (we checked everyone out) and does not need this gig, so he totally unbiased and ethical.”
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