Michael Jackson’s family sadly but not surprisingly denied new trial in liability case against concert promotor

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Katherine Jackson & Michael

On Friday, January 30, 2015 a California state appeals court rejected the latest endeavours of Michael Jackson’s mother and children to reverse a jury’s decision that exonerated AEG Live of negligence in connection with the King of Pop’s death.

The three-judge panel ruled that the pop superstar’s mother, Katherine Jackson, and his three children are not entitled to a new trial after their attorneys submitted that AEG Live was liable for Jackson’s treatment, and that confusing, narrow-scoped jury instructions contributed to the jury’s exoneration of AEG. (Click here for the full story)

While I don’t usually post non-artistry related articles here, I felt compelled to share the following, which was written by award-winning UK journalist and longtime Jackson advocate, Charles Thomson.

Charles Thomson

Thomson appears on Sky News

Contributed by Charles Thomson

I can’t say I’m surprised by this decision – not because I thought the Jacksons were in the wrong, but because I believe the process was undermined from the moment the original judge removed ‘duty of care’ as an issue in the case. It meant the only angle the Jacksons could pursue was the very narrow premise that AEG negligently hired Murray.

Even then, I thought they had a decent case – but it removed a lot of ammunition from the Jacksons’ arsenal.

I found the jury’s verdict very puzzling. They claimed that because Murray had a medical licence, that meant he was competent – and that because that meant he was competent, AEG was not negligent.

But by their logic, Harold Shipman was competent.

Murray was not competent. For example, when he administered CPR to Michael Jackson, he did it wrong. That is basic first aid, and he got it wrong. His actions were not only unethical, but criminal. He was an idiot and about as far from competent as I can possibly imagine.

AEG knew there were potential risks when it came to hiring Michael Jackson a personal doctor. We know they knew, because they talked about it in emails. Correspondence between the big players acknowledged, for instance, that there would be an inherent danger in hiring a doctor with a bad financial situation, because he could be tempted to bend the rules in his desperation to keep the gig.

And so they claimed they did a background check on Murray specifically to make sure this wasn’t the case. They said that background check came back fine. Turns out that was not true.

They didn’t do a background check on Murray. Had they done, they would have discovered that the very risk they identified in their emails was lurking in Murray’s background; he had terrible debts and really needed the gig. But they lied about doing a background check and claimed that problem didn’t exist. Why they did that was never explained. Randy Phillips simply claimed he didn’t remember writing the relevant email and so couldn’t tell the jurors, or Michael Jackson’s grieving mother and orphaned children, why he’d done it.

In my opinion, on the basis of that email chain alone, it would be an open and shut case. The big players identified a potential risk, assumed responsibility for that risk, identified a way to circumvent that risk, but then failed to implement it and simply pretended they’d done it instead.

I find it bizarre, under those circumstances, that the jurors could completely absolve AEG of responsibility. The Jacksons found it bizarre too, so they investigated what had happened. They obtained sworn depositions from jurors who said they had wanted to find AEG culpable, but they felt the judge’s instructions were written in such an incredibly narrow way that as long as they concluded Murray had a medical licence – which he clearly did, like every other corrupt or incompetent doctor currently practicing in America – they had no choice but to find against the Jacksons.

The Jacksons’ initial appeal was heard by the same judge whose decision they were complaining about – a frankly surreal and idiotic scenario that common sense surely dictates should not be allowed. I’m not sure that could happen in the UK, for instance. It strikes me as being akin to asking a police officer to investigate an allegation about their own alleged misconduct.

When the appeal reached the higher court, it was reported that the judges kept asking irrelevant questions about how AEG could have known Murray was giving Michael Jackson Propofol. In my opinion, this was an ill-conceived line of questioning about a side-issue with no bearing on the material facts of the appeal, which centred on the judge’s limiting instructions, about which multiple jurors with no vested interest in the outcome had complained.

Is it a surprise that a group of judges would uphold the decision of another judge? I don’t think so. I would expect them to. In my view, the establishment often unwittingly falls into the trap of assuming the system is perfect and its administrators are unassailable; ‘If a seasoned judge thought it was right, it must be right’. In many cases, it seems the establishment’s default position is to protect itself. In the past, that has resulted in horrific travesties of justice.

Remember when Troy Davis begged for a lie detector test to prove his innocence in the days before he was executed? And the courts refused permission and executed him instead? Why? If everybody was so convinced he was guilty and deserved to die, why not let him take the test; one final humiliation? It came across as though the establishment was afraid of the results and wanted to kill him before its processes could be undermined, even if that was not the intention behind the decision.

But as sad as this news is, it’s worth keeping in mind the one shred of good that has come out of all this; baffling verdict aside, the Jacksons unarguably won the moral victory.

The AEG trial was perhaps the greatest and most public exposé of the music industry the world has ever seen. The Jacksons put all those incredibly disturbing, damaging and shocking emails into the public domain; emails about slapping Michael Jackson because he wouldn’t do as he was told. About screaming at him. Emails calling him a freak. Emails referring to him as though her were a petulant and idiotic child, and joking about tricking him into signing the contract by making him think he’d earn more money than he actually would.

Emails which proved that current Michael Jackson Estate executor John Branca not only knew about Michael Jackson’s health problems before his death, but was involved in desperately trying to combat them before opening night. This courtroom revelation came not long after he had appeared on television claiming he had no idea why the Jacksons believed Michael was ill in his final days, and not long after the Estate publicly criticised the Jacksons for bringing the case, and ridiculed them as disgruntled conspiracy theorists.

The trial vindicated Karen Faye, vindicated Jermaine Jackson – vindicated everyone who raised concerns about Michael Jackson’s health before he died and everyone who blew the whistle afterwards, only to be portrayed as liars and fantasists by the big players whose profits they were potentially jeopardising, and the various fans who act as their agents.

So this is sad news. But all is not lost. They didn’t win the day, but they exposed the truth. And that is infinitely more important than any technical victory.

Click here to follow Charles Thomson on Twitter.


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