Michael Jackson's doctor 'was not vetted', his mother says

Katherine Jackson leaves court 29 November 2011 Katherine Jackson is now the legal guardian of Jackson's three children

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A lawyer for Michael Jackson's mother says the pop star's promoters failed properly to vet the doctor convicted of causing his death from a drug overdose, as a wrongful death lawsuit opens.

Katherine Jackson and his three children say AEG Live should be held liable for Jackson's death in 2009.

The promoters say they did no wrong and could not have foreseen Jackson's death on the eve of his comeback tour.

Millions of dollars are at stake in the trial, which could last up to 90 days.

Brian Panish, who represents Jackson's relatives, told a court in Los Angeles that AEG Live was the only party that maintained it was unaware of Jackson's addiction to prescription drugs.

'Ultimate price'

Analysis

During the course of this trial, the tragic life of Michael Jackson is likely to be analysed in more depth than ever before.

In 2005, he was found not guilty of child abuse after a criminal trial which exposed aspects of the secretive star's inner world in embarrassing detail.

When Dr Conrad Murray went on trial - and was found guilty of the singer's manslaughter - Jackson's physical frailties and dependence on prescription drugs were laid bare.

The current case promises more legal fireworks, with the uncomfortable prospect of Jackson's children testifying about their father's final hours.

The closing - and perhaps defining - chapter in the story of pop music's most enduring star is about to be written.

"Over the years Michael's family and people who knew him believed he had a problem with prescription medication," Mr Panish told a jury of six men and six women.

"His stirring voice, his musical genius, his creativity and his generosity and his huge heart was extinguished forever," he said, adding that jurors would have to decide who was responsible for the star's death.

But AEG Live's lawyer Marvin Putnam said Jackson's closely guarded private life left the promoters in the dark about his drug dependence.

"The truth is, Michael Jackson fooled everyone," Mr Putnam said. "He made sure that no-one, nobody, knew his deepest darkest secrets."

The case, which is expected to focus on the last months of Jackson's life, his financial history and his overall health, could feature testimony from his children.

It is also reported that stars such as singer Diana Ross, director Spike Lee and music producer Quincy Jones may take the stand.

The trial is expected to focus on Conrad Murray, the former cardiologist who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011 for administering a combination of sedatives and the anaesthetic propofol that killed Jackson.

The Jackson family claims in its suit, filed in 2010, that AEG Live had not properly investigated Murray's background before he was hired to serve as Jackson's personal physician.

Murray was to be paid $150,000 a month during the This Is It concert series, but Jackson died before the tour began.

Murray is in prison, appealing against his conviction.

Fragile health
Michael Jackson file picture 1997 Jackson, shown in 1997, was said to be taking powerful anaesthetics as a sleeping aid

AEG Live is expected to argue that Jackson had selected Murray to be his personal doctor, and that Murray was not officially an AEG Live employee.

But his family are expected to argue the concert promoters put pressure on Murray to get Jackson ready for the gruelling tour schedule despite the pop icon's fragile health.

Famous members of Jackson's family, including his sister Janet, are also expected to attend the trial.

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