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“I should stick to my job and leave the rest to Murray”: Jacksons v AEG update

By | Published on Thursday 11 July 2013

Michael Jackson

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the testimony of Kenny Ortega, the director of Michael Jackson’s ill-fated ‘This Is It’ venture, is proving pretty emotional as the Jacksons v AEG court case continues to go through the motions. As previously reported, Ortega took to the witness stand on Monday, after a few weeks mainly occupied with testimonies from ‘experts’. Both he and Jackson’s mother Katherine have become tearful during the director’s deposition.

The Jackson family, of course, claim that AEG Live, as promoter of ‘This Is It’, should be held liable for the death of the late king of pop, for hiring and mismanaging Dr Conrad Murray, the medic jailed for causing the singer’s death through negligent treatment. AEG counters that it merely advanced money to pay Murray’s fees, and that it was Jackson himself who hired and managed the doc.

Ortega’s dealings with the doctor have therefore been a key area of questioning during the his testimony. The director recalled how, after he had expressed concerns to AEG bosses that Jackson had been a no-show at several rehearsals, execs at the live firm told him that the doctor had been put in charge of getting the singer to the rehearsal venue. Ortega was also told to call Murray direct if there were any further issues.

From then on there were seemingly tensions between Ortega and Murray. First when there were further no-shows and the director called the doctor to express his frustrations of the setbacks coming so close to the scheduled start-date for the ‘This Is It’ London residency. And then when Jackson did show up, but was so frail that the director wouldn’t let him perform.

At this point Ortega expressed further frustrations to his paymasters at AEG, including emails previously discussed in court. In one the director proposed “a top psychiatrist” be brought in to evaluate the singer. It led to that meeting of Jackson, Murray, Ortega and AEG President Randy Phillips, in which the singer and his doctor insisted all was fine.

Said Ortega in court this week, according to CNN, “[Murray] said I had no right to not let Michael rehearse, that Michael was physically and emotionally capable of handling all his responsibility as a performer and I should be a director and not an amateur doctor or psychologist. I should stick to my job and leave the rest to him”.

Sure enough a very different Jackson arrived at the next scheduled rehearsal. “It was miraculous”, said Ortega. “I was overjoyed at his energy, his state of mind, his enthusiasm. He had a metamorphosis. It was pretty extraordinary”.

It is thought that Jackson’s renewed energy was simply the result of him having a couple of nights without using the drug propofol to induce sleep. As previously reported, a sleep expert previously told the court that while the anaesthetic might have helped Jackson fall asleep, the drug meant he wouldn’t have enjoyed any REM sleeping, which is essential for the body’s good health.

The frail incapable Jackson was simply suffering from sleep deprivation, having had propofol-induced sleep for weeks. After sleeping properly, the singer quickly returned to good health. Though, as we know, Murray still allowed Jackson to use propofol again, with fatal results.

Ortega told the court that it was AEG Live Co-CEO Paul Gongaware who delivered the news that Jackson had died, telling the director “our boy is gone”. Ortega added: “I think I was in shock. I wanted to believe that it was some weirdo on the phone”.

On Tuesday the director also revealed that he was kept in the dark about the dramas that surrounded the press conference in London where Jackson first announced the ‘This Is It’ venture, events retold in court during Phillips’ testimony. Ortega, hired shortly after that event, told the court that he would probably not have taken on the project had he known the problems caused by Jackson’s state of mind before the London press event.

With Ortega’s testimony, the jury has reheard the story of the final weeks of Jackson’s life from yet another viewpoint. Though for Team Jackson, what’s most important is the responsibility seemingly given to Murray by AEG. Is that proof that the live firm was, in fact, in charge of the medic, and was putting too much pressure on the cash strapped doc? AEG’s legal reps, who would say “definitely not”, should get to properly start their defence next week, with the case now expected to run into August.

The case continues.