Jackson lawyers contend this fear led AEG Live executives to take control of Jackson’s life as he prepared in Los Angeles to premiere the tour in London in July of 2009.
Show producers sent warnings in mid-June that Jackson’s health appeared to be failing.
Associate producer Alif Sankey testified earlier in the trial that she “had a very strong feeling that Michael was dying” because of his frail health.
She called show director Kenny Ortega after one rehearsal. “I kept saying that ‘Michael is dying, he’s dying, he’s leaving us, he needs to be put in a hospital,’” Sankey said. “‘Please do something. Please, please.’ I kept saying that. I asked him why no one had seen what I had seen. He said he didn’t know.”
After Jackson failed to show up at several rehearsals in June — or was unable to perform sometimes when he did appear — Gongaware sent an e-mail to Phillips that Jackson lawyers call their “smoking gun.”
They argue the message shows the 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. “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.
Gongaware testified earlier that he did not remember writing the e-mail and Phillips testified last week that he didn’t remember reading it.
However, Phillips convened what he called “an intervention” at Jackson’s home with Murray, Jackson and Ortega present.
A Los Angeles police detective summarized what Phillips told investigators about that meeting: “Randy (Phillips) stated that Kenny (Ortega) got in Michael’s face, at which time Dr. Murray admonished Randy, stating, ‘You’re not a doctor. Butt out.”
Asked about it in court, Phillips said the detective’s summary is wrong. “That’s not what I said,” Phillips testified. “I told them something completely different than this. They just conflated the people and the things.”
What actually happened was Murray “got into and admonished Kenny Ortega not to be an amateur physician and analyze Michael,” Phillips said.
Phillips sent an e-mail after the meeting saying he had confidence in Murray, “who I am gaining immense respect for as I get to deal with him more.”
“This doctor is extremely successful (we check everyone out) and does not need this gig, so he (is) totally unbiased and ethical,” Phillips’ e-mail said.
He conceded in court that no background check of Murray was conducted by AEG Live. Jackson lawyers argue that had it been done, they would have discovered Murray was in deep debt and dependent on the lucrative job.
Murray said he was infusing propofol into Jackson every night to treat his insomnia so Jackson would be rested for rehearsals.
Phillips contradicted Gongaware’s earlier testimony that Jackson was under no contractual obligation to attend rehearsals. Phillips refused to advance money to help Jackson pay his staff days before his death because he believed the singer was “in an anticipatory breach” of his contract because he had missed rehearsals, he testified.
Key witnesses meet during trial
Phillips acknowledged that he and his lawyer met with Jackson’s former manager Tohme Tohme — another key witness in the trial — last month. The meeting happened in the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel on May 4, at the end of the first week of testimony.
“I don’t remember if it was the testimony in this case or what the lunch was about, but Marvin Putnam (AEG’s lead lawyer in the trial) was at the lunch with me,” Phillips said when asked about it by Panish.
He couldn’t remember “100%” but they may have discussed Tohme’s legal battle to get paid by Jackson’s estate, he said.
“I don’t remember what I ate that day,” Phillips said.
“I didn’t ask you what you ate,” Panish replied. “I asked you what you talked about.”
Judge: Beware being evasive
Panish’s feisty exchanges with Phillips — a successful music industry executive who dropped out of law school — has forced Los Angeles County Judge Yvette Palazuelos to intervene.
“I can’t jail somebody for not answering a question,” Palazuelos said when Panish complained Phillips was being evasive. “There’s only so much I can do.”
She warned Phillips that jurors would see it for themselves.
“You give an answer, and you’re not answering the question, the jury is going to get the impression that you’re being evasive.”
“I realize that,” Phillips said.