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.