Opening statements in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial began Monday at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. Judge Yvette Palazuelos presided over the trial in which twelve jurors, six women and six men, will determine whether or not concert promoter AEG Live is at all liable for Jackson's untimely death.
The civil lawsuit filed by Katherine Jackson, and Michael's three children, Paris, Prince and "Blanket" (Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr.) against AEG Live, AEG Productions, and AEG executives Randy Phillips and Paul Gongaware claims they are responsible for Michael's untimely death by negligently hiring Dr. Conrad Murray to look after the pop star during rehearsals for his "This Is It" tour. Murray is currently serving a four year sentence after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter, in 2011, for Jackson's death caused by a Propofol overdose.
Katherine Jackson appeared in court Monday alongside son Randy and daughter Rebbie during the opening day proceedings. Jackson's three children were all absent. Both sides' attorneys spoke for 2.5 hours each presenting their opening statements to the court.
Jackson attorney Brian Panish tried to drive home the point that it was AEG who hired Dr. Murray to care for Michael Jackson, while AEG attorney Marvin Putnam argued that Dr. Murray was employed directly by Michael Jackson.
Here are five revelations and disputes from the first day of the trial:
1. The $1.5 Billion vs. $42 Billion Damage Dispute: So which is it?
Jackson attorney Brian Panish said, despite AEG's claims otherwise, that he never asked for $42 billion in damages. In fact, he said the damages are two-fold. The first being "economic" damages which he estimates to be worth around $1.5 billion. The second damages are "non economic" which includes the loss of the decedent's love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society and moral support whose value the jury would have to assess.
Meanwhile, AEG attorney Marvin Putnam claims the $42 billion in damages amount was indeed what had been put forth previously, and that Monday was the first time he was hearing the $1.5 billion — which by all counts he believes is also exorbitant. Putnam added that he doesn't even want to talk damages because, as far he's concerned, "there weren't any."
2. Tape Reveals Conrad Murray Saying Michael Asked "Me to be on His Team"
Audio was played for the court in which Dr. Murray, during questioning by the LAPD on June 27, 2009 over news reports claiming he was employed by AEG and not Jackson, said he felt he was under the direct employ of Michael Jackson.
"Mr. Jackson asked me to be on his team. I was talking to Mr. Jackson himself. He offered me employment. And I was of the opinion that he would be my employer directly," Murray said on on the recording, "Subsequently to accepting that, I realized that AEG would be the one paying for the salary that he requested, so that was their arrangement as far as who would finance me, so I am an employee for Michael Jackson but paid through AEG."
3. AEG Attorney Claims MJ Was Using Propofol Since the '90s
While Jackson attorney Brian Panish admitted that MJ had always been dependent upon prescription medication, he repeatedly stated that Jackson had never used Propofol before having it administered by Dr. Conrad Murray in May-June 2009.
AEG attorney Marvin Putnam, however, said evidence will show that Jackson had, in fact, been using Propofol since the '90s and kept it secret from everyone but the doctors who administered it to him.
Deborah Rowe, a nurse who later became Jackson's wife and mother to his oldest two children, testified in her depositions that she has always known Jackson was using Propofol. But Rowe claims that until Dr. Conrad Murray, Jackson always had it administered by anesthesiologists.
4. Jackson Attorney Claims LAPD Found Signed Contract Between Murray and AEG
Jackson attorney Brian Panish kept saying that when the LAPD searched Dr. Conrad Murray's car immediately following Jackson's death, a signed contract between Dr. Murray and AEG was found inside the car.
AEG attorney Marvin Putnam, however, says that it was not an actual contract, but in fact a draft that was still being worked out which was only signed by Dr. Murray but had not yet been signed by AEG nor Michael Jackson. Further, Putnam added that there was an Artist Consent clause which stated that the Producer (AEG) was to engage Dr. Murray for Michael Jackson at the expense of Jackson, which Putnam says demonstrates that Dr. Murray was employed by MJ.
5. Who Signed Dr. Conrad Murray's Paychecks?
Jackson attorney Brian Panish tried to focus on the fact that it was AEG who was responsible for paying Dr. Conrad Murray which, Panish says, demonstrates employment. However AEG attorney Marvin Putnam alleges that it is customary for a concert promoter to pay an advance to the artist, but that the money is paid back by the artist. Therefore, any money AEG was going to give to Dr. Conrad Murray would have been paid back by Jackson who was Murray's employer in the same way that Jackson hired a creative director, choreographer and make up artist and paid for them using his advance.