LOS ANGELES – A judge today left open the door for Dr. Conrad Murray to testify in the trial of a civil suit by Michael Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson, who alleges AEG Live negligently hired him to care for her son before his never-realized London concerts.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos also said attorneys for the entertainment conglomerate can bring before the jury evidence of Jackson’s 2005 trial and acquittal of child molestation charges. She said the information could be relevant to the singer’s history of despondency and drug abuse.
Attorneys for Katherine Jackson said the fact her son was found not guilty of molestation supported their position the information should be kept out. The entertainer was set to perform a string of 50 shows in London, but died on June 25, 2009, at age 50, of acute propofol intoxication at his rented home in Holmby Hills while rehearsing for the sold-out concert series.
His mother sued in September 2010 on behalf of her son’s three children, Michael Jr., Paris-Michael Katherine and Prince Michael, claiming that the company was liable for picking Murray to be pop star’s personal physician. Jury selection is scheduled April 2 and the attorneys estimated the trial will last two to three months.
Thursday’s rulings took place on a day a panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal denied a request by AEG Live to put the trial on hold while the judge’s Feb. 28 decision to allow the case to go forth on a negligent hiring cause of action was revisited.
Murray was on the original list of prospective witnesses to be called by the plaintiffs. However, Katherine Jackson’s attorney, Kevin Boyle, said the doctor’s lawyers told him the doctor would assert his Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to testify. Boyle said Murray’s attorneys asked that he thus not be called to the stand in the civil suit.
However, AEG Live attorney Jessica Stebbins Bina said Murray could be helpful as a defense witness because he has said on record that Jackson hired him, not AEG Live. She also said he cannot assert his right against self- incrimination on every question and that his answers to inquiries where the Fifth Amendment does not apply can be heard by the civil trial jury.
Murray retains his Fifth Amendment protection through the course of his appeal of his involuntary manslaughter conviction in Jackson’s death. He was sentenced in November 2011 to four years in the Los Angeles County Men’s jail.
Palazuelos also said AEG Live attorneys can tell the jury that nurse anesthetist David Fournier twice said that he believed Jackson deceived him by not revealing he had a Narcan implant inserted in his body before a surgical procedure in which Fournier assisted. Fournier said he believed Jackson did not reveal the information out of fear the nurse would not administer anesthesia to him.
The implant is designed to block the brain’s opiate receptors.
The judge also ruled Katherine Jackson’s lawyers can mention Jackson’s possible inebriation on the eve of the March 2009 announcement of the London concert tours to show AEG Live allegedly knew Murray was not properly caring for Jackson.
Palazuelos additionally said Katherine Jackson can be quizzed by AEG Live lawyers as to why she and her attorneys decided not to sue Murray. AEG Live attorneys maintain she chose not to do so because he has limited finances.
But the judge said Jackson’s children cannot be questioned regarding the decision not to sue Murray.
Kathryn Cahan, another AEG Live attorney, told Palazuelos that Prince Michael said in a recent deposition that he does not blame Murray for his father’s death and considers him “a good person.”
In yet another ruling, Palazuelos said Katherine Jackson’s lawyers cannot present evidence about Murray visiting strip clubs the week of Jackson’s death because it would be prejudicial to AEG Live. However, she said the plaintiffs’ attorneys can present information about the doctor having financial problems from overdue child support payments.