Opening Arguments Begin in Michael Jackson Death Trial

Jackson's family is alleging that concert promoter AEG Live is to blame for the singer's death.

By Brandon Lowrey and Gordon Tokumatsu
|  Tuesday, Apr 30, 2013  |  Updated 8:25 AM PDT
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The legal battle over Michael Jackson's death began Monday, April 29, 2013, with Jackson's mother blaming a concert promoter for hiring the doctor convicted in causing the singer's death.

The legal battle over Michael Jackson's death began Monday, April 29, 2013, with Jackson's mother blaming a concert promoter for hiring the doctor convicted in causing the singer's death.

Opening arguments in a high-stakes legal battle over Michael Jackson's death began Monday, with Jackson's mother blaming a concert promoter for hiring the doctor convicted in causing the pop superstar's death.

Katherine Jackson, 82, claimed that the major concert company AEG Live should have done a better job vetting Conrad Murray, a former doctor convicted of giving Michael Jackson a powerful anesthetic that killed him in 2009.

Meanwhile, AEG Live contended that Jackson chose Murray as his personal physician.

The court case was expected to last at least three months and include testimony from a star-studded cast of witnesses that includes legendary singers Prince and Diana Ross, along with several Jackson family members and other celebrities.

On Monday, media swarmed the outside of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles as Jackson family members entered the building. The judge in the case banned cameras from the courtroom.

Michael Jackson died at 50 of a prescription in June 2009 as he prepared to begin his "This Is It" comeback concerts in London with AEG Live. His body was found in a Holmby Hills mansion.

In 2011, Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to four years in jail.

Thomas Mesereau, an attorney who successfully defended Michael Jackson in a 2005 child molestation trial, said a series of emails between AEG Live officials and Murray are a critical piece of evidence.

"If you look at those emails where they acknowledge they're paying his doctor, they acknowledge that he'd better perform even if he's not well, I think the defense has a real uphill battle," Mesereau told reporters. "I think that sympathy is going to be with Katherine and Michael's three children."

Katherine Jackson’s attorneys said reports that the lawsuit seeks $40 billion are highly exaggerated, telling the jury that the real figure is closer to $1.5 billion based on what Jackson could have earned, had he lived, and the personal loss to his family.

An attorney for AEG told jurors, "This case is about the choices we make and the responsibilities that go with them" -- a statement that foreshadowed a defense built, in part, around the dangerous anessthetic that ultimately killed Jackson.

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