Michael Jackson family lawyer blasts tour promoter as trial opens

Mon Apr 29, 2013 6:51pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Concert promoters AEG Live ignored red flags when it hired Dr. Conrad Murray to care for Michael Jackson, and should have been aware that the singer had addiction problems years before he agreed to perform a series of 2009 London comeback concerts, an attorney for Jackson's family told a Los Angeles jury on Monday.

Making his opening statement in what is expected to be an emotional, three-month long civil wrongful death trial, attorney Brian Panish said a combination of factors caused Jackson's death in June 2009 from an overdose.

"Michael Jackson, Dr. Conrad Murray and AEG Live each played a part in the ultimate result, the death of Michael Jackson," said Panish who is representing the singer's family.

The "Thriller" singer's mother Katherine is suing privately-held AEG Live, promoters of the never-realized series of London concerts, for negligence in hiring Dr. Conrad Murray.

Murray, convicted in 2011 for the involuntary manslaughter of Jackson, was caring for the singer as he rehearsed in Los Angeles for the series of 50 "This is It" shows in London that were due to start in July 2009.

Panish said AEG Live failed to do proper background checks on Murray, who asked for $5 million to care for the singer. Background checks would have revealed Murray was deeply in debt and was a cardiologist even though Jackson had no known heart issues, Panish said.

"`When a red flag comes up, do you turn away or do you look into it?" Panish said. "AEG ignored the obvious red flags and they hired Dr. Murray."

Katherine Jackson, 82, along with her children Randy and Rebbie, were among family members attending Monday's packed opening of the trial. Jackson's three children, who could be called as witnesses later, were not there.   Continued...

Michael Jackson's brother Randy Jackson and sister Rebbie Jackson arrive for the opening arguments in Katherine Jackson's civil suit against concert promoter AEG Live in Los Angeles April 29, 2013. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas