LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Jury selection began on Tuesday in a Los Angeles civil trial that will revisit the chequered life and sudden death of superstar Michael Jackson before a planned comeback that he had hoped would revive his tattered personal and musical reputation.
Jackson’s elderly mother Katherine is suing AEG Live, the promoters of a never-realized series of 2009 London concerts, for the wrongful death of her son, alleging they were negligent in hiring Dr Conrad Murray to care for the singer while he rehearsed for a planned series of 50 shows.
AEG Live contends that it did not hire or supervise Murray and claims that Jackson had prescription drug and addiction problems for years before entering into any agreement with it for the “This is it” London concerts.
The concert promoters also argue that they could not have foreseen that Murray posed a danger to Jackson.
Jackson’s mother, his two oldest children Prince, 16, and Paris, who turns 15 on Wednesday, as well as Murray, are all on the witness list in what promises to be days of emotional testimony about the death of the “Thriller” singer.
Murray, who is not being sued, was convicted in 2011 for the involuntary manslaughter of Jackson after a long trial that depicted the singer known for his spectacular public shows as an odd, sometimes slurring, drug-dependent person when off-stage.
Jury selection is expected to take several days. On Tuesday several dozen potential jurors were given questionnaires that sought information ranging from their ability to serve in a long trial to their knowledge and views of Jackson’s music, his death in June 2009, media coverage and Murray’s subsequent trial.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos on Tuesday agreed to consider again requests from TV broadcasters CNN and NBC for live coverage of the wrongful death trial that is expected to last two to three months.
Attorneys for Katherine Jackson support the idea of live coverage but AEG opposes the notion. The concert promoters have also asked the judge to issue gag orders that would prevent both legal teams from talking to the media during the trial.
According to celebrity website TMZ.com, Katherine Jackson and Michael Jackson’s children are seeking more than $40 billion (26.4 billion pounds) in damages from privately held AEG Live for loss of the singer’s earnings and other damages.
Attorneys for AEG Live have argued that the figure is absurd because Jackson’s career was in a downward spiral, according to TMZ.com.
Jackson, 50, died in Los Angeles on June 25, 2009 from a lethal dose of the surgical anaesthetic propofol that Murray was administering for sleep problems. The day before he had been in final rehearsals for the concerts due to start on July 13.
Judge Palazuelos ruled last month that AEG Live could raise Jackson’s 2005 trial and acquittal on child molestation charges as part of their defence as it may be relevant to the singer’s history of drug abuse and despondency.
Although the pop star was cleared on all charges of molesting a 13-year-old boy he had befriended at his Neverland Ranch in central California, his reputation was badly tarnished, his music career slumped and he ran up huge debts.
Editing by Eric Walsh