Jury reaches verdict in Michael Jackson wrongful death lawsuit: AEG not liable in singer's death

LOS ANGELES - AEG Live was cleared Wednesday of any wrongdoing in the death of Michael Jackson, with a Los Angeles jury rejecting a lawsuit by the singer's mother alleging the concert promoter negligently hired the doctor who gave the pop superstar a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol.

In 2011, Dr. Conrad Murray was sentenced to four years in jail for the June 25, 2009, death of the 50-year-old Jackson, who died at a rented Holmby Hills estate where he was staying while rehearsing for his never-realized, 50-performance "This Is It" concert series in London.

After nearly 14 hours of deliberations over four days, the six-man, six-woman jury determined that AEG Live did hire Murray as Jackson's doctor, but it answered "no" to question number two, which asked if Murray was "unfit or incompetent to perform the work for which he was hired."

With that answer, the jury denied any damages to Katherine Jackson and the late singer's three children.

"We reached a verdict that we understand not everybody is going to agree with," according to the jury foreman, Greg Barden, who was juror number six.

"Conrad Murray was hired to be a general practitioner," Barden said."Conrad Murray had a license. He graduated from an accredited college. ... That doesn't mean we felt he was ethical, and maybe if the word 'ethical' was in the question, it might have been a different outcome."

"... In the end he was very unethical. He did something he shouldn't have done," he said.

Katherine Jackson, the 83-year-old family matriarch, sued in September 2010 on behalf of herself and her son's three children -- Michael Jr., Paris-Michael Katherine and Prince Michael -- claiming that AEG Live hired Murray to be Jackson's personal physician and failed to properly supervise him.

Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for Jackson's death, is scheduled to be released Oct. 28 -- an early release due to good-behavior credits.

Jurors deliberated for about two hours Thursday, a full day Friday and all day Tuesday. The panel deliberated this morning and indicated around 2 p.m. that it had reached a verdict.

Ironically, Katherine Jackson showed up at the courthouse Wednesday to wait for a verdict. It was the first day she had been seen at the courthouse during the deliberations.

"The jury's decision completely vindicates AEG Live, confirming what we have known from the start -- that although Michael Jackson's death was a terrible tragedy, it was not a tragedy of AEG Live's making," the company's attorney, Marvin Putnam, said.

During his closing argument, Jackson family attorney Brian Panish insisted that AEG Live was responsible for hiring Murray. He pointed repeatedly to a statement given by AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips in an interview that the company had hired Murray, since he had agreed to give up his medical practice to serve as Jackson's personal physician.

Although Jackson died before Murray's employment contract was ever finalized, the doctor was expected to be paid $150,000 a month -- with AEG fronting the money and Jackson reimbursing the company. The doctor never actually was paid under the arrangement because the singer died before he could sign it.

AEG Live attorney Marvin Putnam argued that AEG Live never hired Murray and it was Jackson himself who brought the cardiologist aboard.

Putnam also contended that AEG Live could not be held liable for the actions of Murray and Jackson behind the closed doors of the singer's bedroom, where the doctor administered propofol to help treat Jackson's insomnia. Putnam also argued that Jackson, who had a history of prescription-drug abuse, engaged in doctor-shopping, hunting for a physician who would agree to provide him with the drug, which he called his "milk."

Panish had asked that jurors award Katherine Jackson and the singer's three children as much as $1.5 billion, although he conceded that Jackson likely bore about 20 percent responsibility for his own death. He insisted, however, that AEG live should be held accountable for about 80 percent of the negligence involved.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos dismissed Timothy Leiweke, AEG Inc.'s former president and chief executive officer, and that company as defendants before trial. Several months into the trial, she also tossed all allegations against Phillips and Paul Gongaware, co-chief executive officer of AEG Live division Concerts West.

"We lost one of the world's great musical geniuses, but I am relieved and deeply grateful that the jury recognized that neither I, nor anyone else at AEG Live, played any part in Michael's tragic death," Phillips said.

Juror number nine, Kevin Smith, said it was impossible to hold AEG Live responsible for Murray's actions behind closed doors.

"Michael Jackson was pretty used to getting his own way," Smith said. "He was a big star. He had all these doctors who wanted to be his doctor."

Smith added that Jackson kept his nocturnal activities in his rented estate private.

"Nobody could go upstairs (to Jackson's bedroom) and see what was going on up there," Smith said. "How could AEG have done anything about it when they were kept in the dark?"

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