Prince Jackson claims late father Michael thought This Is It rehearsals were going to kill him at wrongful death trial
Michael Jackson's eldest son Prince Jackson told a court that his late father had feared the gruelling rehearsal schedule for his This Is It Tour would be the death of him.
Prince, full name Michael Joseph Jackson Jr, 16, told the jury in Los Angeles that his father had been left in tears by talks with AEG Live chief executive Randy Phillips days before his planned 02 comeback gigs.
“After he got off the phone, he would cry. He’d say, ‘They’re going to kill me, they’re going to kill me,” Prince said yesterday.
Prince testified in a lawsuit accusing concert promoter AEG Live LLC of negligently hiring Dr Conrad Murray, who was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson an overdose of the anaesthetic propofol.
AEG denies it hired the physician or bears any responsibility for the entertainer's death.
Prince claimed that he saw Phillips at the family's rented mansion in a heated conversation with Murray in the days before his father died. The teenager said Phillips grabbed Murray's elbow.
Phillips "looked aggressive to me," Prince testified. His father wasn't at home at the time and was probably rehearsing, he said.
He said Jackson had told Phillips he wanted more time to rehearse and was unhappy with pressure to perform his 50 scheduled comeback concerts entitled This Is It.
Murray's lawyer Valerie Wass and AEG defence lawyer Marvin S. Putnam later denied outside court that the meeting between Murray and Phillips that Prince described ever happened.
Putnam said Prince would be re-called to the witness stand during the defence case later in the trial.
"I think as the testimony will show when he is called in our defence that's not what happened," Putnam said. "He was a 12-year-old boy who has had to endure this great tragedy."
Prince's testimony began with the teenager showing jurors roughly 15 minutes of private family photos and home videos.
He described growing up on Neverland Ranch and narrated videos of the property's petting zoos, amusement park and other amenities. After his father's acquittal of child molestation charges, Prince described living in the Middle East, Ireland and Las Vegas.
Prince movingly described the frantic efforts to revive his father who died almost exactly four years ago on 25 June 2009.
He told the jury he knew there was trouble when he heard screaming upstairs and went into his father's bedroom. His father was lying halfway off the bed, eyes rolled up into the back of his head as his physician tried CPR.
His sister Paris screamed for her father and Prince, now 16, told jurors that he was crying. On the ride to a hospital, the teenager recounted how he tried to calm the fears of his sister and younger brother by telling them that angels were watching over their father and everything would be fine.
It wasn't until his father's doctor, Murray, came out of the emergency room and said he had died that Prince knew his father was gone.
"Nothing will ever be the same," the teenager told jurors. He said while his younger brother doesn't totally realise the loss, his sister has had the hardest time of them all and he has had many sleepless nights since his father died four years ago.
His voice wavered at times and tears appeared to form in his eyes, but Prince remained composed as he publicly recounted for the first time what he saw the day his father died.
The re-telling of the scene in Jackson's bedroom came after nearly an hour of Prince describing happier times, showing photos of him and his sister when they were younger and a series of videos (see above) of the children filmed by their father.
Another image showed Michael Jackson playing piano with his son while Prince was still a toddler.
Prince is the first Jackson family member to testify during the trial, now in its ninth week. Today his cousins, TJ and Taj Jackson, who are Tito Jackson's sons, will take the witness stand.
Prince Jackson, his sister Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson and brother Prince Michael "Blanket" Jackson are plaintiffs in the case against AEG, which their grandmother and primary caretaker filed in August 2010.
Lawyer Brian Panish asked Prince whether he was interested in pursuing a career in music. "I can never play an instrument and I definitely cannot sing," Prince said to laughter from the jury.
He said he wanted to study film or business when he goes to college.
His testimony also included details that AEG's lawyers will likely point to later in the case to bolster their contention that Jackson was secretive about using propofol as a sleep aid.
Prince said none of the household staff were allowed upstairs at the mansion, and the singer kept his bedroom locked while receiving treatments from Murray.
During cross-examination, Putnam played a clip from a deposition of Prince in which the teen said he discovered the bedroom was locked when he and his siblings were playing hide-and-seek and couldn't get inside.
Prince also said his father gave him and his sister Paris a stack of 100 dollar bills on a few occasions to give to Murray. He said his father told him that Murray wouldn't take the money from him, and the doctor wouldn't take the full amount from the children.
The teenager said his understanding was that the money was meant to tide Murray over until he got paid by AEG Live.
He never saw or knew how Murray was treating his father.
"I was 12. To my understanding he was supposed to make sure my dad stayed healthy," Prince testified.
Additional reporting by AP
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