Maybe now Michael Jackson can finally rest in peace. Four years and a few months after the pop legend died suddenly at the age of 50, jurors in his family's wrongful death suit against concert promoter AEG have decided that AEG did in fact hire Dr. Conrad Murray, but that Murray was not unfit or incompetent to perform his job — meaning AEG is not liable.
The verdict was read at 6:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 2, after three days of deliberations following a five-month trial in L.A. During the trial, several of Jackson's relatives — including his 16-year-old son, Prince — were called to testify about the late star's final days.
Jackson's mother, Katherine Jackson, and his kids Prince, Paris, and Blanket sued AEG Live in 2010, claiming that the company had hired and supervised Dr. Conrad Murray and was therefore liable in the "Thriller" singer's June 25, 2009 death. (Murray has been in jail for the last two years; he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011 after a different jury decided he had played a key role in Jackson's death by administering propofol, the surgical anesthetic that led to his overdose.)
AEG, for its part, has argued that Jackson himself chose Murray. However, an email sent by AEG Live Co-CEO Paul Gongaware suggests that the physician was on the company's payroll and thus under its control. "We want to remind [Murray] that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary," the email read. "We want to remind him what is expected of him."
Jackson family lawyers allege that this agreement between Murray and AEG created a conflict of interest, and that Murray felt pressured to deliver risky treatments. They further argue that concert promoter executives displayed negligence in their management of Murray and also ignored warning signs that Jackson's health was on the decline.
AEG attorneys, meanwhile, say the company had no way of knowing the singer was at risk. They contend that AEG would have pulled the plug on Jackson's This Is It comeback tour if they had realized he was receiving propofol. They also say they had no reason to believe Murray was endangering Jackson's life in any way.
"AEG Live did not have a crystal ball. Dr. Murray and Mr. Jackson fooled everyone," attorney Marvin Putnam argued in court. "AEG would have never agreed to finance this tour if they knew Mr. Jackson was playing Russian roulette in his bedroom every night."
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