By KAREN ALI
The Connecticut Law Tribune
The drama-packed trial that is pitting Michael Jackson's family against Jackson's concert promoter in a wrongful death case is coming to a close.
Michael Koskoff, of Bridgeport's Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, and other lawyers from his medical malpractice firm have been in Los Angeles since jury selection started in April. They are helping the Jackson family lawyers with the medical aspects of the case. "There have been so many dramatic moments," Koskoff said of the trial, which is scheduled to end in a few weeks, when the jury gets the case.
One of those moments came when a specialist in holistic medicine, Cherilyn Lee, who testified for the defense, broke down on the witness stand.
While being questioned by the defense, Lee said that she had warned Jackson that Propofol, a surgical anesthetic that was being given to Jackson for insomnia by Dr. Conrad Murray, was dangerous. Under cross-examination, she said that Jackson told her that he was assured by his doctors it was safe as long as he was properly monitored.
"Then she broke down. She started crying. She said he believed the doctors," Koskoff said.
A dramatic, as well as unusual, moment came when a lawyer for the promoter (AEG Live Inc.) came from the audience to the witness stand - while the jury was present - to console Lee. Koskoff said that the judge admonished the lawyer for going up to the witness. Koskoff explained that the plaintiff's lawyers would have been willing to comfort her, but they didn't think it was proper. "We would have wanted to console her. We were upset about" the opposing counsel's actions potentially influencing te jury, Koskoff said.
Who Hired Doctor?
The pop star's mother, Katherine Jackson and his three children are pitted against Jackson's concert promoter, AEG Live Inc. The family claims AEG is responsible for his death in 2009 because the company hired and supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, who is serving time for involuntary manslaughter in connection with the case. Murray was convicted in 2011.
AEG, on the other hand, says that Jackson hired Murray. "Their defense is that they never hired him, Michael did. And if they did hire him, it was because Michael wanted him," Koskoff said. "That's the main battleground of the case right now."
Koskoff's view is that AEG created a conflict of interest that caused Murray to engage in risky medicine. Murray was being paid $150,000 a month to take care of Jackson on the tour, but if the tour was postponed the doctor would not get any money.
Another witness who broke down on the stand was Kenny Ortega, the director of Michael Jackson's concerts, who testified that Jackson was the greatest talent of all time. "He had warned AEG that Michael needed help, that Michael was falling apart...and he broke down on the witness stand," Koskoff said. "It's been a very emotional trial."
Koskoff said that AEG has tried to portray Jackson as a "hopeless drug addict" while the Jackson lawyers are saying he only took drugs while supervised.
Koskoff said that while he was questioning a defense witness, Dr. Petros Levounis, an addiction specialist, he got the doctor to admit that there was no evidence that Jackson ever self-administered drugs or that he took drugs to get high. Levounis claimed that Jackson was addicted to Demerol, but acknowledged on cross-examination the Demerol was always prescribed and administered by a medical doctor, Koskoff said.
This piece of evidence could help the plaintiff's case because it indicates that Jackson was not an addict, but a man receiving faulty medical treatment, Koskoff said. As an otherwise healthy 50-year-old man, he would have had an opportunity to earn a lot more money in his career, according to the plaintiffs. That point could increase the damage total if the plaintiffs win. "We think he would have lived a long life," Koskoff said. "AEG contends he was going to die from a drug overdose."
There's also been evidence indicating that Jackson was very healthy. "He had low blood pressure, perfect coronary vessels, no diseases," Koskoff said. "There were no signs anywhere of any negative effects of the drugs."