NEW: AEG Live did "fail to follow adequate hiring practices," expert says
Prince and Blanket attend Cirque du Soleil's "Michael Jackson One" premiere in Las Vegas
Two jurors tell judge a woman approached them during a court break Friday
"She mentioned 'Please don't give anyone any money,'" one juror says
A business management expert testified Monday as lawyers try to prove Michael Jackson’s last concert promoter is liable in the singer’s death.
Human resources consultant Jean Seawright’s analysis of AEG Live’s hiring practices may lack the drama of last week’s testimony by Jackson’s oldest son, but it could be crucial for proving that the company negligently hired, retained or supervised Dr. Conrad Murray.
The trial of the lawsuit filed by Jackson’s mother and three children began its tenth week with their lawyers nearing the end of their case. AEG Live lawyers are expected to start presenting their defense around July 15.
AEG Live contends that Michael Jackson, not its executives, chose and controlled Murray, who is serving a prison sentence for an involuntary manslaughter conviction.
If the jury decides that AEG Live executives have responsibility for Jackson’s death from an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol, they will then have to decide how much he might have earned in the years he didn’t get to live.
Prince and Blanket dancing
Jurors would have learned a lot about Michael Jackson’s work and worth if they had traveled with the Jackson family to Las Vegas over the weekend for the premiere of Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson One” show.
Prince, 16, and Blanket, 11, sang and danced while watching the Cirque celebration of their father’s music and life in a Mandalay Bay Casino theater. Paris, 15, was unable to attend because she is still hospitalized since last month’s suicide attempt.
The children never saw their father perform live, one of his motivations for attempting his comeback concerts, but thanks to technology Jackson appeared to be back on stage for a ghostly performance of “Man in the Mirror.”
Prince’s appearance at the opening of the permanent show, which is different from Cirque’s traveling “Immortal” show, came three days after he appeared in court to tell jurors about his father’s life and last days.
His father 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.
Seawright, who has worked as a human resources consultant for businesses for nearly 25 years was paid $300 an hour by Jackson lawyers to review documents and testimony on the wrongful death case. After about 100 hours, she said she reached an opinion about if AEG Live’s hiring of Dr. Murray was negligent.
“They did indeed fail to follow adequate hiring practices,” she testified Monday.
Serving as a personal doctor for Michael Jackson was “a very high risk position” that warranted a background check to determine if Murray was fit for the job, competent to do the work and did not have a conflict of interest, Seawright testified.
Jackson lawyers contend that Murray’s deep debt, which included $1 million in foreclosures and judgments, made him conflicted since he could lose his $150,000 a month job if Jackson didn’t make to rehearsals and perform his concerts.
A simple credit check – taking five minutes and costing less than $10 – would have revealed the conflict of interest, she said.
Credit checks are routine for many companies hiring for high-risk positions, she said.
A key piece of evidence used by the Jackson lawyers is an e-mail sent by AEG Live CE Randy Phillips to “This Is It” show director Kenny Ortega on June 20, 2009 – five days before Michael Jackson died from an overdose of propofol administered by Murray.
“This doctor is extremely successful (we check everyone out) and does not need this gig so he is totally unbiased and ethical,” Philips wrote in an effort to assure Ortega Jackson was in good hands with Dr. Murray.
Seawright testified that she found no evidence the company did anything to check out Dr Murray for fitness, competence or any conflict of interest that might lead him to provide unsafe treatments.
AEG Live argues that it never hired Murray, but simply negotiated with him on Jackson’s behalf.
Seawrght said companies have the same obligation in hiring, whether for a regular employee or and independent contractor.
Jurors can expect to be watched more closely by court bailiffs after an incident near the end of Friday’s session. Two alternate jurors told the judge that a woman approached them during a court break.
“She mention ‘Please don’t give anyone any money,’” alternate juror No. 1 said.
Alternate juror No. 5 quoted the woman, saying “I just wanted to say not to award them any money.”
While the woman apparently was opposed to the Jackson’s lawsuit seeking billions of dollars in damages, AEG Live lawyer Marvin Putnam used the incident to suggest that the judge should crack down on Michael Jackson fans who wear Jackson shirts and carry signs of support for Katherine Jackson in the court hallway.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos rejected Putnam’s request, saying Jackson fans have free speech rights that she cannot limit.
Both alternate jurors said the incident would not affect their ability to make an impartial decision in the case.