What killed Elvis? It’s a question at Michael Jackson’s death trial

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Outside of court, Panish suggested it was Putnam’s job as Gongaware’s lawyer to prepare him by having him review e-mails before questioning.

CNN exclusively obtained video of Gongaware’s deposition recorded in December and played this week for jurors.

Gongaware struggled in the deposition when Panish asked him about the e-mail Jackson lawyers call their “smoking gun” — because it contradicts AEG’s argument that they never hired or supervised Dr. Murray.

They say Gongaware’s e-mail, sent 11 days before Jackson’s death, shows AEG Live executives used Murray’s fear of losing his lucrative job as Jackson’s personal physician to pressure him to have Jackson ready for rehearsals despite his fragile health.

It was Gongaware’s reply to an e-mail from show director Kenny Ortega expressing concerns that Murray had kept Jackson from a rehearsal the day before. Ortega also raised his own concerns about Jackson’s health.

“We want to remind (Murray) that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary. We want to remind him what is expected of him,” Gongaware wrote. But in his video deposition he said he could not remember writing it.

After conceding that he wrote it, Gongaware then seemed unable to explain what he meant by the e-mail.

“He needs cheeseburgers”

AEG Live’s production manager for Jackson’s tour e-mailed Gongaware 10 days before Jackson’s death that perhaps what the singer needed to turn around his deteriorating health was to be feed some junk food: “He needs some cheeseburgers with a bunch of Wisconsin cheesehead bowlers… and a couple of brats and beers. Jeez.”

John “Bugzee” Houghdahl wrote a more serious assessment of Jackson’s condition four days later: “I have watched him deteriorate in front of my eyes over the last 8 weeks. He was able to do multiple 360 spins back in April. He’d fall on his ass if he tried now.”

Gongaware testified that he disagreed with Houghdahl’s opinion, saying he had no “particular concern” about Jackson’s health and ability to perform.

MJ looked ‘Skeletal’

AEG Live President Randy Phillips sent Gongaware an e-mail after Jackson’s death to make sure he did not use certain rehearsal video in the “This Is It” documentary because it made Jackson look too thin:

“Make sure we take out the shots of MJ in that red leather jacket at the soundstage where the mini-movies were being filmed. He looked way too thin and skeletal.”

Gongaware testified that he did not know why Phillips would ask that. “We didn’t keep anything out based on what Randy wanted.”

Another e-mail suggested Gongaware was concerned that musicians, dancers and singers who worked on the show might tell interviewers after Jackson’s death that he was unhealthy at rehearsals.

“The only thing we ask is that they keep it positive and stress that MJ was active, engaged, and not the emaciated person some want to paint him as being,” he wrote in an e-mail approving their interviews.

Gongaware is expected to remain on the witness stand through Monday.

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