Michael Jackson's final concert promoter, AEG Live, won't have to pay as much as $1.5 billion to the late superstar's mother and children, a Los Angeles jury ruled Wednesday. The jury found the promoter not liable in the wrongful-death case after a trial that lasted more than five months and made public many disturbing facts about Jackson – from his alleged desperation to obtain powerful sleep medication to AEG's chief executive officer slapping the "despondent" star on his rear-end to psych him up.
In three days of deliberations that foreman Gregg Barden called "extremely stressful," according to the Los Angeles Times, the jury debated the question of whether Jackson or AEG hired Dr. Conrad Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after giving Jackson a deadly dose of propofol in June 2009. The jury found that AEG did, in fact, hire Murray, but answered "no" to the next crucial question, which was whether Murray was unfit or incompetent at the time to be Jackson's doctor.
"We didn't really expect the jury to find against us on that question," says Kevin Boyle, one of the Jackson family attorneys, suggesting the jury may have been "confused" about the phrasing of the question. "I don't know if anyone would predict that."
But Shawn Trell, AEG Live's senior vice president and general counsel, argues Jackson's lawyers made contradictory points throughout the trial. "The jury heard what poor condition Michael Jackson was in, how he had deteriorated, he was frail, underweight, he wasn't going to be able to do the 50 shows," he says. "Then when it came to damages, somehow he was going to tour more from age 50 to 66 than he did at any point in his life. The jury could pick up on that. They couldn't have it both ways."