What’s likely to be a dramatic tour through Michael Jackson’s final days begins Monday when attorneys make opening statements in a wrongful death trial that could last deep into the summer.
Six alternates were selected Tuesday, joining a dozen jurors who were seated the previous day. The alternates would replace any juror who can’t continue or is removed from the panel.
Jackson’s mother and children are suing Los Angeles entertainment giant AEG, alleging it is liable for Jackson’s death because it hired and supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, who used a powerful surgical anesthetic in an effort to help the singer cope with insomnia. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011.
The case is likely to veer into the sensational, pitting Jackson’s towering legacy against a business enterprise that has had a profound influence on the entertainment scene, particularly in Los Angeles.
Though the trial will zero in on whether the singer or AEG is responsible for hiring Murray, testimony will likely touch on the singer’s death, his feeble physical state as his much-anticipated comeback concert series approached and his eccentricities.
In court papers, Jackson’s family has described AEG as a heartless, money-driven machine that pushed Jackson to prepare for a tour that he was not physically capable of pulling off.
AEG says it in no way controlled the singer and that bringing Murray aboard as Jackson’s personal physician was Jackson’s choice. The company, in court papers, said it recommended hiring a British doctor.
Jackson’s “This Is It” comeback concerts were to have debuted in London in 2009.
The singer died two weeks before the tour was to launch. AEG was the promoter of 50 concerts Jackson was scheduled to give in London.
On Tuesday, after both sides agreed to the alternates, the remaining members of the jury pool let out a cheer, knowing they would not spend the next four months in a courtroom.
“You can get go on with your lives,” Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos said.
Perhaps the oddest moment of the jury picking occurred Tuesday when AEG attorney Marvin Putnam said he would not stipulate that Michael Jackson was dead.