Negligence Is Debated in Jackson Death Case

After only two weeks of testimony, no side has a clear advantage in the civil trial pitting the mother of Michael Jackson against A.E.G. Live, the promoter of his attempted comeback concerts, over the question of who was responsible for Jackson’s death.

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But both sides have chosen the same weapons: Jackson himself, his problems with drugs and the wrenching details of his last days. What’s most surprising is that even with so much written and revealed about Jackson since his death four years ago, there is still more to learn.

Martin S. Putnam, A.E.G.’s lead lawyer, promised in his opening statement that the case would reveal “ugly stuff” about Jackson’s private life. And witnesses called by lawyers for Jackson’s 83-year-old mother, Katherine, have testified at length about Jackson’s addiction to medications, his physical deterioration and his belief that he was talking to God.

The case hinges on the fairly limited questions of whether A.E.G. hired Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician who administered the powerful anesthetic that killed Jackson in June 2009, and if it was negligent in doing so. Dr. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a separate criminal trial in 2011 and is serving a four-year prison sentence.

Lawyers for Mrs. Jackson have said that they may seek up to $5 billion in damages. But the greater risk for both A.E.G. and the Jackson family is the potential damage to their reputations as the details of Jackson’s life and final days are revealed, in perhaps even greater detail than at Dr. Murray’s criminal trial.

Witnesses last week included two women who had worked for Jackson for decades, both describing him as a sensitive artistic genius haunted by physical pain. One, Karen Faye, his makeup artist since the early 1980s, said that Jackson became more dependent on prescription drugs over the course of his career.

The other woman, the choreographer Alif Sankey, tearfully recounted how, less than a week before Jackson died, she had begged Kenny Ortega, the director of “This Is It,” Jackson’s attempted comeback concerts, to take him to the hospital after Jackson appeared ill and said that God was speaking to him.

“I had a very strong feeling that Michael was dying,” Ms. Sankey said. As she testified, the only other sound audible in the small courtroom was the tapping of journalists on their laptops.

On Monday another choreographer on “This Is It,” Stacy Walker, who was called by lawyers for A.E.G., testified that she saw no signs that Jackson was in bad shape before he died.

“I just never in a million years thought he would leave us, or pass away,” Ms. Walker said.

The evidence in the case has included e-mails from A.E.G. executives which the Jackson lawyers say show that the company was acting as Dr. Murray’s employer. One message, sent to Mr. Ortega less than two weeks before Jackson’s death, says of Dr. Murray: “We want to remind him that it is A.E.G., not MJ, who is paying his salary. We want to remind him what is expected of him.”

A.E.G., a global sports and entertainment company controlled by the billionaire Philip F. Anschutz, denies that it hired Dr. Murray, saying that he had been selected by Jackson and that his $150,000-a-month salary was to come out of Jackson’s earnings for the tour.

What damage the case could cost Jackson’s reputation — and his valuable estate — is unclear. The estate has flourished, even though his faults and indiscretions have already been widely publicized, and some entertainment and estate experts say that the details revealed in this trial are likely to elicit more sympathy for Jackson, not less.

“I don’t think this will negatively impact Jackson’s earning potential through music or consumer product licensing at all,” said Martin Cribbs, who has represented the estates of Einstein and Gandhi. “What truly separates a legend from just a star is when their body of work supersedes who they were as an individual.”

In a court filing last May, the estate said that it had had gross earnings of $475 million since Jackson’s death.

Jackson got more headlines last week when a choreographer, Wade Robson, said that Jackson had sexually abused him as a child. Lawyers for the Jackson estate — which is not a party to the A.E.G. case — immediately excoriated Mr. Robson’s claims as “outrageous and pathetic,” and Mr. Putnam told reporters that the claims were irrelevant to the current Jackson civil suit.

Also this week, a California state attorney filed a response to an appeal by Dr. Murray, whose lawyers have argued that the judge in the case made legal errors in not sequestering the jury and not allowing jurors to hear evidence about Jackson’s troubled finances. In the filing on Monday, Supervising Deputy Attorney General Victoria B. Wilson wrote that there were no errors, and that Dr. Murray’s lawyers had forfeited opportunities to object to the judge’s rulings, according to The A.P.

By the standards of Los Angeles celebrity trials, the Jackson suit seems a quiet affair. The judge, Yvette M. Palazuelos, has banned cameras, and the 45 seats in the courtroom are occupied mostly by lawyers and reporters. A daily lottery for the two or three seats guaranteed for the public draws the same small circle of Jackson superfans. There was one notable guest: Judge Lance A. Ito, who presided over O. J. Simpson’s murder trial in 1995, sat briefly in the gallery last week.

But the trial, which is expected to last at least three months, will draw more attention as potential witnesses include stars like Diana Ross and Quincy Jones, who may testify to Jackson’s professional drive or his physical condition.

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AEG Lawyer: ‘Ugly Stuff’ To Come in MJ Death Trial

AEG Live’s lawyer warned jurors that “we’re going to show some ugly stuff” as he began the defense’s opening statement in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial Monday.

The concert promoter has no choice to reveal Jackson’s “deepest, darkest secret” because the company must defend itself from the accusation from Jackson’s family that it is responsible for the pop icon’s death, Marvin Putnam said.

Before Putnam began, a Jackson lawyer played for the jury a sentimental song Jackson wrote and recorded for his three children titled “You Are My Life.”

“You are the sun, you make me shine more like the stars that twinkle at night,
You are the moon that glows in my heart,
You’re my day time, my nighttime,
My world. You are my life.”

Katherine Jackson, his mother, wiped tears from her face as her late son’s soft voice filled the small courtroom.

And so begins a trial, which could last several months, that promises dramatic revelations and legal fireworks. With opening statements delivered, the Jackson’s call their first witness Tuesday morning – Orlando Martinez, the Los Angeles Police detective who investigated Jackson’s death.

AEG Live executives are “ruthless guys” who ignored Michael Jackson’s health problems and his doctor’s ethical conflicts, which led to the pop icon’s death, a Jackson family lawyer argued Monday.

Jurors earning $15 a day will decide whether one of the world’s largest entertainment companies should pay Jackson’s mother and three children billions of dollars for its liability in the pop icon’s death.

Randy and Rebbie Jackson, Michael’s siblings, were with their mother in the front row, just a few feet away from jurors.

“There will be no question in your mind that they were ruthless and they wanted to be No. 1 at all cost,” Jackson lawyer Brian Panish said.

AEG executives knew that Jackson was emotionally and physically weak, Panish told jurors.

Jackson was in an “obvious sharp decline” in the weeks after Murray began working as his personal doctor while he prepared for his comeback concerts.

Another warning sign should have been that Murray asked for $5 million for the job and eventually agreed on $150,000 a month, Panish said. Another doctor had told AEG he would do the job for $40,000 a month as long as Jackson was “clean,” meaning not on drugs, he said.

Panish played for the jury a video of an AEG expert who agreed that Murray’s pay demand was “outrageous.”

“That raised red flag because it was an enormous sum of money,” defense expert Marty Hom said.

“AEG ignored the obvious red flags, and they hired Dr. Murray,” Panish said.

Later in the trial, jurors will hear Michael’s oldest son and daughter describe their father’s last days. But they will also endure weeks of testimony from medical and financial experts offering opinions about the singer’s health, addiction and career.

Only 16 journalists and a few members of the public will be allowed inside the courtroom because many of its 45 seats are reserved for parties involved in the trial, including the Jackson family. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos denied CNN’s request to televise the trial.

The central issue

The central issue is simple: Did AEG Live, the company promoting Jackson’s comeback concerts in 2009, hire or supervise Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s June 25, 2009, death?

Jackson died two weeks before his “This Is It” comeback concerts, organized by AEG Live, were to have debuted in London. The coroner ruled Jackson died from a fatal combination of sedatives and propofol, a surgical anesthetic that Murray told investigators he used to put Jackson to sleep almost every night in the month before his death.

The Jacksons argue that AEG executives knew about the star’s weakened health and his past use of dangerous drugs while on tour. They’re liable in his death because they pressured Jackson and the doctor to meet their ambitious schedule to prepare for the London shows despite that knowledge, their lawyers contend.

A cornerstone of their case is an e-mail AEG Live Co-CEO Paul Gongaware wrote 11 days before Jackson’s death. The e-mail to show director Kenny Ortega addressed concerns that Murray had kept Jackson from a rehearsal the day before: “We want to remind (Murray) that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary. We want to remind him what is expected of him.”

Jackson lawyers argue the e-mail is evidence that AEG Live used Murray’s fear of losing his lucrative job as Jackson’s personal physician to pressure him to have Jackson ready for rehearsals despite his fragile health.

Gongaware, in a video deposition played in court Monday, said he could not remember writing the e-mail, which the Jackson lawyers call the “smoking gun” in their case.

“They put Dr. Murray in a position where if he said Michael can’t go or can’t play, if he said I can’t give you those drugs, then he doesn’t get paid,” Panish told jurors Monday.

Gongaware, who managed two of Jackson’s tours in the 1990s, knew that Jackson relied on addictive opiates during his concert tours, Panish said.

He played a video of one doctor who said he warned Gongaware about it in 1993.

“We felt that we needed to an intervention,” Dr. Stuart Finkelstein said. “We needed to do detox.”

AEG’s lawyer argued Monday that Gongaware and other AEG executives had no way of knowing about Jackson’s use of propofol to sleep.

“AEG knew nothing about this decade-long propofol use,” Putnam said. “They were a concert promoter. How could they know?”

He promised that Jackson’s ex-wife and mother of his two oldest children, Debbie Rowe, will testify that she assisted in administering propofol to Jackson in the 1990s when she was a nurse.

She saw several doctors put Mr. Jackson to sleep in hotel rooms while on tour,” he said, including in Munich, London, Paris.

“The truth is Mr. Jackson fooled everyone,” Putnam said about Jackson’s porpofol use. “He kept those who might have helped him at a distance and no one knew his deepest, darkest secret.”

Jackson’s ability to keep his private side private meant AEG could not see any red flags warning of Jackson’s destruction, Putnam said.

“They didn’t see this coming,” he said. “They had no idea.”

Putnam said Jackson family members will testify about their failed attempts at intervention and their lack of knowledge about what was happening.

“If they didn’t know what was going on, how could someone else think there was even a problem,” he said.

AEG contends that Jackson was responsible for his own demise, that he chose Murray to be his full-time doctor and that his drug addiction led him to a series of fatal choices.

“This case is about personal choices,” Putnam said. “People have responsibility for their personal choices. It was not a tragedy of AEG Live’s making.”

Murray was never an AEG employee but rather was chosen and paid by Jackson for nearly four years until Jackson died, AEG lawyers contend.

“AEG Live never paid Dr. Murray anything, ever,” Putnam said.

He played a snippet from Murray’s interview with Martinez two days after Jackson’s death.

“I am an employee for Michael Jackson but paid through AEG,” Murray told police.

Jackson, not AEG chose Murray, he said.

Child molestation accusations against Jackson, for which he was acquitted after a trial, are relevant because they resulted in an increase in his drug use, Putnam said.

He focused on Jackson’s doctor shopping for drugs, displaying a chart of 40 doctors and nurses who Jackson sought drugs from.

Jackson’s family seeks billions

Just before Monday’s session began, the judge issued a series of rulings that will allow Jackson expert witnesses to testify but limit some of their opinions.

The lawsuit seeks a judgment against AEG Live equal to the money Jackson would have earned over the course of his remaining lifetime if he had not died in 2009. Jackson lawyers denied media reports that they were seeking $40 billion in damages if AEG Live is found liable, but it could cost the company several billion dollars, according to estimates of Jackson’s income potential.

AEG Live is a subsidiary of AEG, a global entertainment company that was up for sale recently with an $8 billion asking price.

Palazuelos reversed an earlier tentative decision Monday that would have limited the amount of damages the Jacksons could argue AEG should pay if found liable in the singer’s death. The decision raises the potential damages by about $1 billion.

One of the Jacksons’ experts, certified pubic accountant Arthur Erk, estimated that Michael Jackson could have earned $1.4 billion by taking his “This Is It” tour around the world for 260 shows. AEG executives discussed extending the tour beyond the 50 shows scheduled for London, Jackson lawyers said.

Jackson lawyer Perry Sanders, in arguing for the judge to allow Erk’s testimony, said when “This Is It” tickets went on sale in March 2009, there was the “highest demand to see anyone in the history of the world. No one has ever come close.”

“There was so much demand, they filled 2 million seats in hours,” Sanders said, quoting an e-mail from AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips sent to AEG’s owner.

“We would have had to do 100-plus shows to fill the demand” in London, he said Phillips wrote. Jackson could have packed the Tokyo Dome several times in a world tour, he said.

But AEG lawyer Sabrina Strong called it “very speculative” that Jackson would have even finished the 50 London shows before dying.

AEG lawyers argued that Jackson didn’t perform 260 shows and make that much money even in his prime. “He never came anywhere close to that,” Strong said. “No one other than Cher has ever done that.”

Erk also calculated Jackson would have followed with four more world tours before he turned 65.

Palazuelos weighed in during a hearing on Thursday, noting that the Rolling Stones are still touring into their 70s.

The Jacksons will also try to convince jurors that he would have made a fortune off of a long series of Las Vegas shows, endorsements, a clothing line and movies.

Strong argued that Jackson had a history of failed projects and missed opportunities, calling Erk’s projections “a hope, a dream, and not a basis for damages.”

Erk, under the new ruling, will be able to tell jurors about the “loss of earning capacity” suffered by the family because of Jackson’s death. This means the jury can consider the Jackson argument that he could have earned millions with a clothing line, endorsements and movies. The expert’s estimate that Jackson would have completed five world tours before he was 65, if he had lived, can also be considered.

AEG can argue, however, that Jackson’s past failures diminished the potential earnings.

None of the Jackson experts can offer an opinion on the question of whether Murray was hired by AEG.

The witness lists include many members of the Jackson family, including Katherine Jackson. Other celebrity witnesses on the list are Sharon Osbourne, Quincy Jones, Spike Lee, Ray Parker Jr., Lisa Marie Presley, Diana Ross and Lou Ferrigno.

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Jury Chosen To Decide Jackson Wrongful Death Case

A jury of six men and six women has been chosen to hear the Michael Jackson family’s wrongful death lawsuit against concert promoter AEG Live.

Another six jurors must now be selected to serve as alternates in the trial, which is expected to last two or three months, in a Los Angeles courtroom.

Jackson’s mother and three children are suing AEG Live, claiming the promoter was liable in the pop icon’s death in 2009.

The judge has not set a date for opening statements and testimony to begin, although the trial opening could happen later this week.

Jackson died two weeks before his “This Is It” comeback concerts, organized by AEG Live, were to have debuted in London in the summer of 2009.

Lawyers for Jackson’s mother, Katherine; and children, Prince, Paris and Blanket, argue that AEG Live is liable because the company hired and supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, who used a surgical anesthetic in a fatal effort to treat the singer’s insomnia as he prepared for the comeback concerts. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and is serving a prison sentence.

AEG Live’s lawyers argue that Jackson chose and controlled Murray.

The lawsuit seeks a judgment against AEG Live equal to the money Jackson would have earned over the course of his remaining lifetime if he had not died in 2009. If AEG Live is found liable, it could cost the company several billion dollars, according to estimates of Jackson’s income potential.

AEG Live is a subsidiary of AEG, a global entertainment company that was up for sale recently with an $8 billion asking price.

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Jury Selection Begins In Jackson Wrongful Death Trial

Jury selection for the Wrongful Death lawsuit against AEG Live, which lists Katherine Jackson and Michael’s children as the plaintiffs, began on Tuesday (April 2, 2013).

The questionnaire for the jury selection process was released.

Judge Sets Rules For Suit Over Jackson Doctor

A Los Angeles judge set the stage Thursday for trial of a civil suit by Michael Jackson’s mother against concert giant AEG Live.

Katherine Jackson claims the company negligently hired the doctor later convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the singer’s death and failed to oversee him. She and the singer’s two eldest children are expected to testify about the singer’s last days.

Legal rulings by Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos anticipated a three-month trial that will revisit events preceding the singer’s death from an anesthetic overdose in 2009.

Dr. Conrad Murray, who was convicted of manslaughter for administering the drug propofol, is not named in the lawsuit. But the judge agreed to allow him to be brought to court from jail to testify outside the jury’s presence. He has said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to testify. But lawyers said he could possibly talk about non-criminal issues.

The judge said jury selection would begin April 2 and attorneys estimated the search for a panel could be long and difficult because of the notoriety of the parties and the estimated length of the trial.

The judge granted several plaintiff’s motions and rejected a few.

She refused to bar AEG from raising the subject of child molestation charges against Jackson from years ago. Lawyers for his mother claim it’s irrelevant because he was acquitted.

Katherine Jackson’s attorney, Kevin Boyle, argued that “There is nothing more prejudicial than dropping that bomb in court, mentioning child molestation.”

But Palazuelos said she would allow testimony that Jackson became despondent and reliant on drugs because of the charges.

She refused to approve inquiry into the finances of Jackson’s siblings and barred any testimony about a claim that Katherine Jackson was kidnapped by family members and taken to Arizona last year.

She wouldn’t permit AEG lawyers to ask questions about possible discord in the marriage of Katherine and Joe Jackson and she barred any inquiry into the identity of the biological parents of Jackson’s three children.

Katherine Jackson’s suit seeks hundreds of millions of dollars from AEG including $200 million in non-economic damages, including emotional distress.

The case centers on whether AEG did an appropriate investigation of Murray and whether they controlled him while he was preparing Jackson for a series of concerts in London.

During arguments, the question arose of why Katherine Jackson did not sue Murray. Attorneys disclosed that Jackson’s son Prince and his daughter, Paris, testified in depositions that they believed Murray was “a good person” and didn’t want him sued. But Katherine Jackson, who had the decision, testified it was financial, they said.

The judge said AEG could have sued Murray as well.

“The same questions can be asked of you,” she told AEG lawyers. “Why didn’t you sue him?”

“Because we’re not required to,” attorney Marvin Putnam said.

The judge called the issue “a side show.”

“He has no money and that’s why they’re not suing him,” Putnam said.

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Katherine Jackson’s Lawsuit Against AEG Live Concerning Michael Jackson’s Death Going To Trial

A judge has dismissed all but one count in a civil lawsuit by Michael Jackson’s mother against concert giant AEG Live, which hired a doctor who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the singer’s death.

Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos’ ruling Thursday means that Katherine Jackson will have a trial on her claim that AEG negligently hired and supervised former cardiologist Conrad Murray. The ruling dismisses claims that AEG could be held liable for Murray’s conduct and breached its duty to properly care for the pop superstar.

AEG Live was promoting a series of comeback concerts by Michael Jackson in London titled “This Is It.” Jackson died in June 2009 while in final preparations for the shows after Murray administered a lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol in the singer’s bedroom.

Katherine Jackson’s attorney Kevin Boyle was not immediately available for comment but argued at a hearing Monday that AEG controlled Murray’s actions and failed to properly investigate him before agreeing to pay him to work as the singer’s physician.

He cited Murray’s debt problems as a red flag that AEG should have spotted and contends the company created a serious conflict between his responsibility to Jackson and his own financial well-being.

Jackson died at age 50 before a contract that would have paid Murray $150,000 a month was finalized.

AEG attorney Marvin Putnam has said Murray was not employed by the promoter and he expects the company to win at trial. He said Katherine Jackson’s lawyers will be unable to prove that AEG should have foreseen that Murray was a danger to the “Thriller” singer.

A trial is scheduled to begin April 2.

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Michael Jackson ONE To Take Residency In Las Vegas

The Estate of Michael Jackson and Cirque du Soleil today unveiled that Michael Jackson ONE will open and take residency exclusively at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino this summer. Directed by Jamie King, Michael Jackson ONE will start its preview performances on May 23, 2013 and have its official premiere on June 29, 2013. This entirely new show is the second creative project to be developed between Cirque du Soleil and The Estate of Michael Jackson after the top grossing Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour, currently playing arenas in Europe as it travels the world.

The show

Michael Jackson ONE is a state-of-the-art visual and audio experience creating a theatrical evocation of Michael’s creative genius. Guided and inspired by his music, four misfits set out on a transformative adventure. By journey’s end, they will personify Michael’s agility, courage, playfulness and love.

The name

Michael Jackson believed that all people are unique and equal, regardless of race or culture. His message was one of unity, harmony and hope for a better world. At once evocative and enigmatic, the name Michael Jackson ONE also presents a paradox: Michael was a multifaceted artist who strove to fuse together various musical styles and art forms. It is a fitting title for a unifying journey into the world of the King of Pop, the genius, the visionary, the One.

“This is our second project with the Estate of Michael Jackson which confirms how stimulating this creative partnership was meant to be”, said Daniel Lamarre, President and CEO of Cirque du Soleil. “Michael Jackson is an all-time phenomenal artist, both timeless and contemporary. As a creative challenge, this project is the ultimate. Through the use of cutting edge technology, we will produce a new Cirque du Soleil theatrical experience not only respectful of Michael’s legacy but also very distinctive from Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour.”

“We are guided by Michael’s own philosophy in all that we do. In preparing for this production, Michael’s message to the cast and crew for his This Is It concerts was foremost in our minds. He counseled them on what the audience experience should be: ‘They want wonderful experiences. We want to take them places that they’ve never been before. We want to show them talent like they’ve never seen before. We’re putting love back into the world to remind the world that love is important. WE’RE ALL ONE. That is the message. ’ We feel the same, and that is what we are delivering both to lifelong fans and those just discovering his artistic genius with Michael Jackson ONE,” stated John Branca and John McClain, Co-Executors of the Estate of Michael Jackson.

Chuck Bowling, Mandalay Bay’s president and COO, said, “The partnership with Cirque du Soleil and The Estate of Michael Jackson represents an extraordinary moment for Mandalay Bay. We are in the midst of a major transformation at this resort, introducing a new set of experiences for our guests. Michael Jackson ONE is truly the crown jewel in that transformation and we cannot wait to share this very special production with the world.”

Along with Jamie King, who started his career as a dancer on Michael’s Dangerous World Tour and also directed the arena touring show Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour by Cirque du Soleil, Michael Jackson ONE will bring together the creative minds behind the Michael Jackson Estate, John Branca and John McClain, and the diverse talents of creators.

PREVIEW PERFORMANCES SCHEDULE:
• Saturday to Wednesday at 7:00pm. There are no performances on Thursdays and Fridays.

TO RESERVE TICKETS:
• Call 877.632.7400 or 800-745-3000
• Go to www.cirquedusoleil.com/mjone or mandalaybay.com
• Visit the Mandalay Bay Events Center box office or any of the MGM Resorts International box offices.

TICKET PRICES:
• $69, $99, $130, $140, $150, plus LIMITED Gold Circle Seating. Prices do not include tax or fees.
• Tickets are available 120 days in advance of the performance date.

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Conrad Murray Ordered To Meet Lawyers For Deposition

A judge has ordered Dr. Conrad Murray to meet with Katherine Jackson’s lawyers next month for a deposition in her wrongful death lawsuit against concert promoter AEG Live.

The lawsuit, which is set for trial in April, accuses AEG Live of causing the death of Katherine Jackson’s son, Michael Jackson, by pressuring him to prepare for his 2009 comeback concerts while he was in fragile health.

The suit, filed on behalf of Michael Jackson’s mother and three children, says that AEG Live executives hired and supervised Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death.

Murray lawyer Valerie Wass, who unsuccessfully objected to the deposition, said the decision disappointed her. Wass said she would advise Murray to invoke his Fifth Amendment right to not answer questions.

“But Dr. Murray has a mind of his own,” Wass said. “If he decided to answer a question, those parties don’t know what he’s going to say.”

The videotaped deposition is set to take place on March 18 in the Los Angeles County jail where Murray has been serving his sentence since November 2011.

Murray, who was the pop superstar’s personal physician, has never been questioned under oath about Jackson’s death. He did not testify at his trial.

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Sony Music Hackers Avoid Jail Term

Two men have avoided jail after admitting copying thousands of files from Sony Music, including previously unreleased tracks by Michael Jackson.

James Marks, 27, and James McCormick, 26, hacked into the record company’s servers in the US from their homes in Daventry, Northants, and Blackpool respectively and downloaded thousands of tracks, including ones by the late pop star and previously unreleased music, the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) said.

The hackers, who met through a fan website forum, also downloaded music by artists including Elvis, Beyonce, JLS, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears.

In total they downloaded around 7,000 files which were completed tracks or the component parts, as well as artwork and videos, SOCA said.

Marks and McCormick were arrested in May 2011 after Sony identified the security breach.

Chatlogs recovered from their computer hard drives showed they were planning to sell or trade some of the files, SOCA said.

Marks and McCormick received six month sentences suspended for one year at Leicester Crown Court yesterday after pleading guilty to computer misuse offenses at an earlier hearing in September. They were also each ordered to do 100 hours community service.

Mick Jameson, from SOCA’s Cyber Department, said: “These men stole thousands of copyrighted files belonging to Sony Music.

“Our remit is to protect businesses as well the public, and we will continue to work closely with law enforcement and industry partners to tackle online criminality.”

Speaking after sentencing, Gregor McGill, head of organized crime at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “James Marks and James McCormick have been sentenced for hacking the servers of one of the world’s largest recorded music companies from their home computers in Daventry and Blackpool respectively.

“Both huge enthusiasts of Michael Jackson, they targeted Sony Music which has the exclusive license to the late musician’s catalog.

“At the time of his death, there existed recorded but unreleased Michael Jackson music which aroused the attention of Marks and McCormick.

“It was the prosecution’s case that these men were fully aware that the files they obtained on their computers were subject to copyright and that they took steps to sell on and to share the music with a wider audience in internet forums.

“In simple terms, these men broke into a computer system and took music files that were not theirs to take. That was criminal activity.”

The year after the King of Pop’s death, in 2009, the company signed a seven-year deal with his estate – worth up to $250 million – to sell his unreleased recordings.

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Conrad Murray Seeks Bail While Awaiting Appeal

The doctor convicted of causing Michael Jackson’s death asked an appeals court this week to let him out of jail while the judges decide whether they will overturn his conviction.

The judge who presided over Conrad Murray’s trial last year denied bail in a February hearing, saying his lawyers had not proven he was not a risk to flee the state or harm someone else with his questionable medical practices.

Jackson died of an overdose of a surgical anesthetic and sedatives in his home while under Dr. Murray’s care on June 25, 2009.

Los Angeles County District Judge Michael Pastor, who sentenced Murray to four years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter conviction, “unjustifiably erred” by denying Murray’s request to remain free during his appeal,” Murray lawyer Valerie Wass said in a motion filed this week with California’s Second District Court of Appeals.

“Appellant respectfully requests that this court order his release on his own recognizance pending appeal, or alternatively, that it order his release on reasonable bail,” Wass wrote.

Murray, who has been in a Los Angeles County jail since a jury found him guilty in November 2011, is eligible for parole after serving two years. Murray is set to be freed October 28, 2013 unless he is let out early on bail or because of jail overcrowding.

Pastor said he doubted Murray would stick around for the appeal decision because he has “resources” to flee and “significant ties elsewhere,” including to Grenada, where he was born, and Trinidad, where he was raised.

But Murray is a naturalized U.S. citizen with children in the United States, including a 3-year-old son in California, Wass argued in her motion for bail. The prospect of losing his life in the United States would prevent him from leaving the country, she said.

“It would be all but impossible for appellant to flee” because he has become infamous from the media coverage of Jackson’s death and the trial, Wass wrote.

As for resources, Murray is broke, she said.

Pastor also suggested Murray was a danger to the public because of his dangerous attitude toward using propofol, the drug that killed Jackson.

Wass argued in the appeal that Murray would not be practicing medicine since California suspended his medical license after he was convicted and he voluntarily surrendered his other medical licenses in Texas and Nevada.

“He lacks the means and ability to prescribe or obtain pharmaceutical drugs,” she wrote.

Prosecutors have until the end of December to file their response to Murray’s bail request.

Murray is appealing his conviction on several points, including the contention that Pastor erred in not allowing his lawyers to present evidence of Jackson’s financial troubles, which they argued would support their theory that the pop star’s desperation led him to administer the fatal dose to himself.

Wass argued that the judge’s decision not to allow the defense to call Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein or his staff as witnesses denied Murray a fair trial. Murray’s lawyers contended that drugs given to Jackson by Klein in the weeks before his death contributed to his death.

The judge’s refusal to sequester the jury in a hotel during the trial, which was televised live, “may have improperly influenced the jurors,” Wass argued.

Another major issue in the appeal is the decision not to allow Murray’s lawyers to test the contents of a bottle found next to Jackson’s bed. They contend it could reveal evidence to support their theory that Jackson gave himself the fatal dose while Murray was out of the room.

Jackson’s mother and three children are suing AEG, the promotion company they say hired Murray and supervised Murray’s care of Jackson as he prepared for comeback concerts in London in summer 2009. Murray is expected to be a witness in the wrongful death trial scheduled for next April.

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