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Choreographer: Jackson was sick days before death
Question of the Day
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A choreographer who worked with Michael Jackson on his ill-fated concert tour told a judge Tuesday he clashed with Jackson’s doctor and others over the superstar’s health six days before he died.
Dr. Conrad Murray and others suggested Jackson should not have been sent home because he was physically and emotionally fine, Ortega testified, adding he was told not to try to be Jackson’s doctor or psychiatrist.
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 propofol to the pop star, ordering a bodyguard to collect items before paramedics were called.
“It was scary. I couldn’t put my finger on it,” Ortega said. “I said, ‘Michael, is this the best place for you to be or do you want to go home and be with your family?’ He said, ‘Would you be OK with that?’ I said, ‘OK,’ and he left.”
The next morning, Ortega said, he was called to Jackson’s home, where he was confronted by Murray, Jackson, the star’s manager Frank DiLeo, and Randy Phillips, head of AEG, the company producing Jackson’s “This is It” comeback tour.
The choreographer went on to say there were no problems at further rehearsals, and the two sessions that preceded Jackson’s death were “fabulous.”
On June 23, he said, “It was like the Michael we all knew … He was in a delightful mood and we had a great day.”
He recalled his last conversation with Jackson.
“He said he was very, very happy. He felt the dream was there. He said to tell everybody he loved them and appreciated their hard work,” Ortega said.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Ed Chernoff asked Ortega if he had ever seen anyone having withdrawals from drugs, and the witness said he had not. Chernoff did not elaborate.
Another witness, Jackson’s personal assistant Michael Amir Williams, described Murray calling him on the day the superstar died and frantically asking him to get help from bodyguards for Jackson, who was in a bedroom.
Murray told him the singer had a “bad reaction” and that immediate help was needed, but didn’t ask him to call 911, Williams said.
Williams described the chaotic scene at the mansion and hospital and recalled the heartbreaking moment when DiLeo told Jackson’s children their father was dead. Williams said he and Murray and everyone else were crying.
Faheem Muhammad, one of Jackson’s bodyguards, testified that two of the pop star’s children, Prince, then 12, and Paris, who was 11, watched as Murray frantically attempted to revive him in the bedroom of his rented mansion.
Muhammad eventually escorted the children from the room. Paris was on the ground crying, and “I realized we needed to get them out of the situation,” he 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 in his opening statement.
Murray’s attorney declined to give an opening statement.
At the end of the multi-day hearing, a judge will determine whether there is enough evidence for Murray to stand trial. The Houston cardiologist has pleaded not guilty and his attorneys have said he did not give Jackson anything that should have killed him.
He said evidence will show Murray waited at least 21 minutes to call 911 and ordered a bodyguard to help him clean up evidence before summoning help. In the most favorable scenario, Walgren said, Murray waited at least nine minutes before calling paramedics.
AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this story.
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