LOS ANGELES (AP) — A stage manager working on Michael Jackson’s ill-fated “This Is It” concert warned an AEG executive days before the star’s death that he was in a physical and mental decline and needed help, according to an email shown to jurors Thursday in court.
“I have watched him deteriorate in front of my eyes over the last eight weeks,” said John Hougdahl in an email to Randy Phillips dated June 19, 2009. Jackson died five days later.
“My laymen’s degree tells me he needs a shrink to get mentally prepared to get on stage,” said Hougdahl, “and then a trainer to get him in physical shape.”
He reported on Jackson’s rehearsal performances saying, “He used to do multiple 360 spins back in April. He’d fall on his ass if he tried now.”
The email was presented by a lawyer for Katherine Jackson in her lawsuit against the entertainment giant’s parent company, AEG Live LLC, for negligence in the hiring of Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray, who was later convicted of killing the pop superstar with an overdose of the anesthetic propofol.
Attorney Brian Panish presented several emails during questioning of AEG Live general counsel Shawn Trell. Trell’s marathon four days of testimony ended only when Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos finally cut him off and excused Trell from the stand.
Trell, who specializes in contracts, provided details of Jackson’s concert deal and identified a number of emails from people expressing concern about Jackson’s health and ability to go forward with a plan for 50 concerts. One of the more famous emails from director Kenny Ortega described Jackson in his last days as “a lost boy.”
The lawsuit says AEG pushed Jackson too hard despite signs that he was in poor health.
When Trell was questioned about the possibility of Jackson being pushed too hard, Katherine Jackson, the star’s mother, seated in the front row, became tearful and was escorted from the courtroom by her daughter, Rebbie, who has accompanied her every day. Mrs. Jackson did not return for the rest of the day’s court session.
Jessica Stebbins Bina, a trial defense lawyer for AEG, questioned Trell about witnesses who described Jackson as ill and emaciated in his last days.
“Did Mr. Jackson die of being too thin?” she asked.
“No,” said Trell.
“Did Mr. Jackson to your understanding, die of being sick?” she asked.
“No,” said Trell, confirming the star died of acute propofol intoxication.
Trell said he never heard of the drug until after Jackson’s death and had no idea Murray was giving it to him.
Bina asked if AEG Live had ever provided medical supplies to Jackson or his doctor and Trell answered no.
He confirmed that Murray’s contract with AEG was never signed and identified documents showing that Phillips objected to hiring the doctor for $150,000 a month, but “Michael insisted.”
The trial was recessed until Tuesday when AEG executive Paul Gongaware is scheduled to testify.