LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Michael Jackson often cried after talking to AEG Live executives as he prepared for his comeback concerts, his oldest son testified Wednesday.
“After he got off the phone, he would cry,” Prince Jackson testified. “He would say ‘They’re going to kill me, they’re going to kill me.’”
His father told him he was talking about AEG LIve CEO Randy Phillips and his ex-manager, Dr. Tohme Tohme, Prince said.
Prince, 16, began his testimony Wednesday morning in his family’s wrongful death lawsuit against Jackson’s last concert promoter, AEG Live.
His first 30 minutes on the stand were filled with videos and photographs of Jackson with his children, but then the questioning by Jackson lawyer Brian Panish focused on the last weeks of his father’s life.
Prince testified that Phillips visited Jackson’s rented Los Angeles mansion and spoke aggressively to Dr. Conrad Murray the night before his father’s death.
“He was grabbing his elbow,” Prince said. “It looked aggressive to me. He was grabbing by the back of his elbow and they were really close and he was making hand motions.”
He couldn’t hear what Phillips was saying to Murray, he said.
Michael Jackson was not there because he was at his last rehearsal, Prince said. He called his father from the security guard shack telephone to let him know Phillips was there. His father asked him to offer Phillips food and drink.
Prince said that was his last conversation with his father.
Prince was 12 when the pop icon died, but he said his father confided in him about whom he trusted and didn’t trust and what he feared as he prepared for his comeback concerts.
Michael Jackson’s three children — Prince, Paris and Blanket — and their grandmother Katherine Jackson are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which contends AEG Live is liable in Jackson’s death because the company hired, retained or supervised Murray, the doctor convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Murray told investigators he gave Jackson nightly infusions of the surgical anesthetic propofol to treat his insomnia. The coroner ruled the singer died of an overdose of the drug.
AEG Live executives allegedly created a medical conflict of interest that pressured Murray to pursue the dangerous treatments so Jackson would be rested for rehearsals, while ignoring warning signs that his health was failing, Jackson family lawyers argue.
AEG Live lawyers contend that it was Jackson who chose and controlled the doctor and that company executives had no way of knowing what treatments Murray was delivering.
‘Daddy’s little man’
AEG Live lead lawyer Marvin Putnam is expected to handle the cross-examination of Prince later Wednesday.
It is possible that jurors will also hear from Paris Jackson on Wednesday, since Putnam could play video clips from her deposition in an effort to highlight any contradictions between brother and sister.
Paris, who was 11 when her father died, is not available to testify live in court since she is hospitalized for psychiatric treatment following an apparent suicide attempt earlier this month.
AEG Live attempted to compel the youngest child — 11-year-old Blanket — to testify, but the judge rejected its request after a psychologist said it would harm the boy.
Jackson confided in his oldest son about his business dealings at an early age.
“Prince has always been, even at 12, the little man — Daddy’s little man,” Jackson chef Kai Chase testified. “He wanted his father to be very proud of him, which Michael was.”
“The weight of the world is on his shoulders, the eldest, big brother and father figure to his siblings,” Chase testified. “It’s a lot for him, growing, liking girls. He wishes his father was here to give him advice. It’s devastating to him.”
Prince recently began pursuing an entertainment career, working several days as a “special correspondent” for “Entertainment Tonight” and acting in an episode of the television show “90210.”
Michael Jackson’s two-month decline
Prince was also asked to describe how his father’s health changed from April 2009, just before Murray began his nightly visits to the rented Los Angeles mansion, until his death on June 25, 2009.
E-mail introduced as evidence and previous witnesses have told of a physical and mental deterioration over Jackson’s last two months.
Show director Kenny Ortega and production manager John “Bugzee” Hougdahl warned AEG executives of Jackson’s deterioration during a series of e-mails in Jackson’s last two weeks, including indications he was unable to do some of his trademark dances or remember lyrics to songs he had sung for decades.
His makeup artist and a choreographer testified about Jackson’s paranoia, his talking to himself and hearing voices, and his severe weight loss.
Associate show producer Alif Sankey testified that she “had a very strong feeling that Michael was dying” after a rehearsal 11 days before his death.
“I was screaming into the phone at that point,” Sankey testified. “I said he needs to be put in the hospital now.”
An expert testified last week that Jackson’s downward slide toward death could be explained by the insidious effects of chronic infusions of propofol. The nightly treatments probably interrupted Jackson’s sleep cycle, robbing him of REM — rapid eye movement — sleep, which is vital to keeping the brain and body functioning.
“The symptoms that Mr. Jackson was exhibiting were consistent with what someone might expect to see of someone suffering from total sleep deprivation over a chronic period,” said Dr. Charles Czeisler, a Harvard Medical School sleep expert.
The trial is in its ninth week and is expected to last until August.
Alan Duke | CNN