Defense rests case in trial over Jackson's death

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Lawyers for concert promoter AEG Live LLC rested their defense Wednesday with testimony from a longtime friend and doctor of Michael Jackson in the negligence case filed by Jackson's mother over his death.

The trial is in its 21st week and jurors are expected to begin deliberations next week.

Defense attorneys provided an emotional finale to their presentation, playing the videotaped testimony of Jackson's physician Dr. Allan Metzger.

With Katherine Jackson seated in the courtroom's front row, jurors heard Metzger deliver a tribute to the star.

“I saw him as a great guy … a wonderful, generous person,” said Metzger, whose account, given on videotape a year ago, delivered perhaps the most human view of the superstar by any witness.

Metzger spoke of Jackson's decision to embark on the ultimately ill-fated “This Is It” tour to eradicate the stigma of his child molestation trial.

“He wanted to redeem Michael Jackson,” said Metzger who visited with the singer at home three months before Jackson died and told of the heart-to-heart talk with him.

“He wanted to redeem his image,” the doctor said. “He felt this was it and he wanted to go out with a flash. He was still terribly hurt about the trial and the accusations. “

Jackson was tried and acquitted in a sensational molestation trial in 2005 then lived abroad for a time and returned to rehearse for his “This Is It” tour.

Metzger's testimony contradicted many accounts of Jackson as a tortured figure in his last months, forced to commit to more concerts than he was capable of doing and turning to prescription drugs to chase away his demons and find the elusive sleep he craved.

Metzger said the star was energized – and scared – by the prospect of the shows.

He said their conversation in February 2009 began with “an anxiety call” from Jackson.

“I think he was fearful because this was it and he needed to do a lot of perfectionalizing,” Metzger testified. “He wanted it to be something that had never been done before.”

One thing that scared Jackson, he said, was the prospect that he would not be able to sleep when he got to London to kick off the concerts.

Metzger said he suggested putting him in touch with sleep therapists in London, but Jackson resisted.

In his last meeting with Jackson in April, 2009, the singer asked Metzger for intravenous sleep medication, but the doctor said he refused, telling Jackson it was dangerous and potentially life-threatening.

The doctor also lectured him on nutrition and hydration, noting that Jackson typically dropped seven to eight pounds in every performance.

He said Jackson never mentioned Dr. Conrad Murray or spoke of taking propofol, the drug that killed him. Murray was convicted in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson an overdose of the drug in June 2009. He is serving a prison term.

AEG Live's defense has focused heavily on testimony from Jackson's former physicians, who have detailed their treatments for the superstar. The company denies it hired Murray.

Lawyers for Katherine Jackson were expected to present a brief rebuttal case this week and closing arguments were likely to begin on Monday.

Metzger began treating Jackson in the early 1980s. He told of traveling with him to Australia on the History Tour and being at his wedding to Debbie Rowe. Jackson suffered from insomnia even then, he said.

Metzger testified about his treatments of Jackson over the years and said the singer could be secretive and often didn't tell him when he was receiving medical care from other doctors. He described the singer's behavior as “doctor shopping.”

He said he did not know him to be addicted to painkillers although he had a low threshold for pain and often sought medication.

“He was a big baby. He didn't want any pain,” Metzger said.

Metzger said he had not seen Jackson in years when the star suddenly called in 2009 and asked the doctor to come to his house.

“I was ecstatic,” Metzger said. “I missed him. I wanted to see him. The kids were growing up and I had been close to the kids.”

He described a confident Jackson sharing his thoughts with an old friend.

“He was excited to come back into the public arena in a good light,” Metzger said.

The doctor said Jackson also joked about getting older and wondered aloud how his neck and back would hold up. They spoke about his sleep problems, but again there was no mention of Murray or propofol, according to the testimony.

“His eyes were bright,” Metzger recalled. “He was ready to go.”

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AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this story

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