LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Jurors in the civil case between Michael Jackson’s mother and concert giant AEG Live got another glimpse of the singer’s private life on Tuesday through the eyes of a paramedic who described the singer’s bedroom and the frantic efforts to revive the King of Pop on the day he died.
Many other private moments from the singer’s life will be exposed as the case progresses over the next several months, with witnesses expected to testify about secret medical treatments, lavish spending and tender moments spent with his mother and children.
In the nearly four years since his death, nearly every aspect of Jackson’s life has been explored in court proceedings, documentaries, books and news stories.
Still, the negligence case filed by his mother against AEG promises to deliver the most detailed account of the singer’s addiction struggles, including testimony from his ex-wife Debbie Rowe about treatments involving the anesthetic propofol dating back to the 1990s.
Jackson died from a propofol overdose in 2009 while preparing for a series of comeback concerts at AEG’s O2 Arena in London.
Katherine Jackson contends AEG didn’t properly investigate the doctor who later administered the fatal dose. The company denies wrongdoing.
During opening statements, attorneys framed Jackson’s prescription drug addiction through the prism of his superstar status.
Attorney Brian Panish, who represents Katherine Jackson, said the drug problems worsened when the pop star was under the stress of live performances.
AEG attorney Marvin S. Putnam countered that Jackson’s stardom provided a cover to receive multiple, secret medical treatments, many involving propofol.
At one point in the proceedings, the harsh portrayal of Jackson’s struggle with addiction led one juror to lean forward and stare at the floor for several moments.
Katherine Jackson and two of the superstar’s children, Prince and Paris, are potential witnesses whose testimony would likely focus heavily on their grieving and losses.
Panish played a song Jackson wrote for his children as a montage of photos played during opening statements. He also read a handwritten note from Jackson that his mother framed and has hanging on her wall.
“The only way you can assess damages, is to know what they had,” Panish told jurors Monday before reading the letter and playing “You Are My Life.”
Katherine Jackson dabbed her eyes with a tissue. On Tuesday, she left the courtroom while the paramedic described her son’s condition on the day he died.
It may be several days before jurors get another look at Jackson’s softer side.
The trial will also feature testimony about Jackson’s troubled finances, with debts that reached nearly $400 million by the time he died.
AEG contends the debts made him desperate to have a successful concert series.
“The private Michael Jackson was like a lot of Americans in the 2000s, spending a lot more than he was making,” Putnam told the jury after describing the singer’s lavish Neverland Ranch, his art collection and other spending.
A Los Angeles police detective who investigated Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray, told jurors Tuesday the physician was more than $500,000 in debt and may have been motivated by a large payday for working with Jackson.
Detective Orlando Martinez testified that he looked into Murray’s finances searching for a financial motive for his role in Jackson’s death and relied mostly on public records. He turned up that Murray’s Las Vegas home was in foreclosure proceedings, and Murray faced several liens for unpaid child support and other unpaid debts.
The searches led Martinez to conclude that Murray’s financial condition was “severely distressed.”
Martinez said that led him to believe Murray’s actions were motivated by the $150,000 a month he expected to be paid by AEG.
“He may break the rules, bend the rules, do whatever he needed to do to get paid,” Martinez said. “It might solve his money problems.”
Murray’s finances were not a factor in the criminal case that ended with his 2011 conviction for administering a fatal dose of propofol to Jackson.
Martinez also showed jurors photographs the various medications officers uncovered in Jackson’s bedroom, including several vials of propofol.
With the start of testimony Tuesday, the panel was transported by paramedic Richard Senneff into the singer’s bedroom, a place he kept locked and where his propofol treatments were administered out of sight of everyone but Murray.
Senneff, a paramedic and firefighter for nearly 28 years, told the panel about responding to Jackson’s bedroom on June 25, 2009, and finding an unusual scene.
He described Murray’s frazzled efforts to revive Jackson.
“He was pale, he was sweaty,” the paramedic said of Murray. “He was very busy.”
He said Jackson appeared to be terminally ill.
“To me, he looked like someone who was at the end stage of a long disease process,” Senneff said, adding that Murray told him that he was treating Jackson for dehydration.
Senneff told the panel he found an IV pole, oxygen tanks and a nightstand with several medicine bottles.
Just as he previously testified in Murray’s criminal trial, the paramedic told the panel that Murray never mentioned propofol.
Jackson’s blue hands, feet and lips, and the singer’s dry eyes all signalled to Senneff that the singer was dead and hadn’t been breathing for a long time.
Onlookers and paparazzi were already gathering at Jackson’s gate and someone pressed a camera to the ambulance window to get pictures of the stricken star.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP .