- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 4, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A choreographer who worked with Michael Jackson on his ill-fated concert tour told a judge Tuesday he let the superstar skip rehearsal six days before he died because he seemed sick and out of shape.

Choreographer Kenny Ortega said he was summoned the next morning to Jackson’s home and told by Dr. Conrad Murray to not try to be Jackson’s doctor or psychiatrist. Murray suggested Jackson should not have been sent home because he was physically and emotionally fine, Ortega testified.

The testimony came during a preliminary hearing to determine if Murray, the singer’s personal physician, will be tried on a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Deputy District Attorney David Walgren said in his opening statement that Jackson was already dead when Murray summoned help and tried to conceal his administering of the powerful anesthetic propofol to the pop star, ordering a bodyguard to collect items before paramedics were called.

Ortega, who later directed the Jackson concert film “This Is It” based on rehearsal footage, said Jackson was in good spirits through most of the rehearsals and was excited about the progress being made in preparation for the London comeback shows.

In the days before Jackson’s death, he said, the singer told him there was nothing to worry about and gave him a big hug.

Ortega said he became concerned on June 19, 2009, when Jackson arrived at Staples Center for rehearsal.

“He didn’t look well at all. Michael was chilled and soft-spoken. … He wasn’t in the kind of condition to be at rehearsal,” Ortega said.

Under questioning by the prosecutor, Ortega described Jackson and their conversation.

“He appeared really lost. It was scary. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I said, ‘Michael, is this the best place for you to be or do you want to go home and be with your family?’” Ortega said.

“He said, ‘Would you be OK with that?’ I said, ‘OK,’ and he left,” the witness said.

Walgren, however, said during his opening statement that Jackson had a “fabulous” rehearsal two days before his death and was set to go to London in a few days.

Jackson died on June 25. Authorities contend Murray gave him a lethal dose of propofol and other sedatives in the bedroom of his rented mansion.

“The evidence will show through the expert testimony, by all accounts, Michael Jackson was dead in the bedroom at 100 North Carrolwood prior to the paramedics arriving,” Walgren said.

Murray had been giving Jackson propofol, an anesthetic normally administered in hospital settings, six nights a week for roughly two months before his death, the prosecutor said.

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