In a final push before the case goes to jury, an attorney for Michael Jackson’s family on Thursday said that entertainment powerhouse AEG cared little about the pop star’s career and used him only to make money.
In his two-hour-long rebuttal, Brian Panish told jurors that executives for the concert promoter gave misleading testimony during the nearly five-month trial and cared little about the truth.
Panish conceded that Jackson bore some responsibility for his death from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol but that jurors should find AEG was 80% at fault and the singer 20%.
Jackson died in June 2009 after he was given propofol in his rented Holmby Hills mansion by Dr. Conrad Murray while rehearsing for his 50 comeback concerts in London. The Jacksons are suing AEG, saying the company negligently hired and supervised Murray. AEG says it was Jackson who hired the doctor.
Panish hammered away at what could be the strongest evidence in the Jacksons' case, the emails that AEG executives wrote about Jackson's deteriorating physical and emotional condition, their relationship with Murray and their faulty memories while testifying.
"These are their emails, not mine," he said.
He attacked the testimony of AEG Live Chief Executive Randy Phillips and executive Paul Gongaware, who said during their depositions that their attorneys told them not to prepare for their testimony and not to review their emails.
"So it was in the best interest of him and AEG Live not to remember anything," Panish said.
As he had earlier, Panish played a video of AEG executives repeating some variation of "I can't recall" numerous times during their depositions.
The case is expected to be handed to the jury Thursday afternoon. Unlike a criminal case, jurors must only find by a 9-3 vote that the evidence was more likely than not that AEG was at least partly responsible for Jackson's death.
Panish has told jurors they should award Jackson’s three children $85 million each in personal damages and another $35 million to his aged mother. In addition, an economic expert testified during the trial that, had the singer lived, he could have earned $1.2 billion or more from new music, tours, merchandise, a Las Vegas show and endorsements.
Panish, speaking in much more forceful tones than he used during his closing argument earlier this week, called the defense case, "a scripted performance by AEG Live that they want to get away with.”
He said that for all of AEG's talk of helping Jackson gain redemption, that wasn't the company's goal.
“Make no mistake, AEG is a moneymaking company, and they wanted to make money," he said. "They didn’t want to help Michael do a comeback. They wanted Michael so they could make money.”
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