Michael Jackson Tour Director Alarmed By 'Incoherent' Star Days Before Death

Conrad Murray grew angry about Kenny Ortega's worries about MJ's health.

September 27, 2011, 8:07 AM

LOS ANGELES Sept. 27, 2011 — -- Just days before Michael Jackson died, the alarmed director of his comeback tour confronted Dr. Conrad Murray about the star's health, saying the king of pop was incoherent at times and unable to rehearse.

The testimony of Kenny Ortega, the co-director of Jackson's "This Is It" tour, was as startling as the opening statements by the prosecution and Murray's attorney.

Just minutes into his opening, prosecutor David Walgren showed the courtroom of photo of a ghostly Jackson lying dead in a hospital bed, draped by a hospital gown. He also played a tape of a conversation with Jackson in which the drugged-up singer slurred his words so badly the prosecutors had to run captions on the screen so jurors could understand what Jackson was saying.

Michael Jackson's Drugged Phone Call

Murray's attorney Ed Chernoff, told the court in his opening that Murray isn't to blame for Jackson's death, that Jackson gave himself a dose of drugs that killed him so quickly Jackson "didn't even have time to close his eyes."

Murray could face four years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Ortega, the first witness called by the prosecution, said that on June 19, 2009, less than a week before Jackson was found dead from a drug overdose, Jackson arrived at rehearsal unwell.

"My friend wasn't right," Ortega said of Jackson. "There was something going on that was deeply troubling me."

Ortega said Jackson appeared lost and incoherent. He rubbed Jackson's chilled feet and fed him food when it was clear he hadn't eaten.

Ortega was so disturbed by Jackson's state that he sent an email to Randy Phillips of AEG Live, the concert promoter, saying that "real emotional stuff" was going on and that "everything in me says that Jackson should be psychologically evaluated."

"There is no one taking responsibility, caring for him on a daily basis ... today I was feeding him, wrapping him in blankets ... and calling his doctor," Ortega wrote.

He later wrote, "Finally, it's important for everyone to know, I believe that he really wants this. It would shatter him, break his heart if we pulled the plug. He's terribly frightened it's all going to go away."

Jackson was preparing for a grueling 50-city comeback tour at the time of his death on June 25, 2009. The tour was to be his first in more than a decade and was of great personal importance. It would be the first time that Jackson's three children would see him perform, Walgren said.

On June 20, 2009, an emergency meeting was called at Jackson's home that included Ortega, Murray and Jackson. Murray grew angry over Ortega's worries about Jackson's health, the director said.

"He said I should stop trying to be an amateur doctor and psychologist and be the director and allow Michael's health to him," Ortega said.

Paul Gongaware, co-CEO of AEG Live, testified that he had his own meeting with an incoherent Jackson in the early stages of rehearsals.

"He was a little bit off. His speech was just very slightly slurred and he was a little slower than I'd known him to be," Gongaware said of the meeting.

Gongaware said that Jackson had come from his doctor, but he couldn't remember if Jackson had come from Murray or his dermatologist, Arnold Klein.

Gongaware hired Murray to be Jackson's physician. He said Jackson had insisted that Murray be hired, despite Gongaware's urging that an English physician be hired since the concerts would be taking place in London.

Gongaware recounted Jackson pointing to his own body and saying, "this is the machine, we have to take care of the machine. This is what I want, I want Doctor Murray."

Murray originally asked for $5 million a year, Gongaware said.

"I told him there was no way that was going to happen," he said. "Michael couldn't afford it."

Negotiations temporarily ended until Jackson told Gongaware to offer Murray $150,000 a month.

Murray originally refused that offer too until Gongaware told him that it was an offer directly from Jackson.

Prosecutors attempted to use Ortega and Gongaware's testimony to paint Murray as a reckless, money-hungry doctor who was aware of the impact sedatives and the powerful anesthetic propofol were having on his patient.

They used the audio message of a drugged Jackson recorded on Murray's phone May 10 to make the same point. Jackson's voice is nearly unrecognizable as he stumbles and talks slowly about the impact he hopes his "This Is It" Tour will have on his reputation.

"We have to be phenomenal ... when people leave this show, when people leave my show, I want them to say I've never seen nothing like this in my life. Go. Go. I've never seen nothing like this. Go. It's amazing. He's the greatest entertainer in the world," Jackson mumbles.

"I'm taking that money, a million children, children's hospital, the biggest in the world. Michael Jackson's Children's Hospital," Jackson says in the recording.

In addition, Walgren showed a photo of Jackson dancing at the Staples Center the night before he overdosed on propofol and put the picture side by side with a picture of Jackson lying lifeless in a hospital bed.

"What happened between that time and approximately 12 hours later when Michael Jackson is dead on June 25, 2009?" Walgren asked. "What you will learn through the evidence is that what happened during that time frame is that the acts and omissions of Michael Jackson's personal doctor, Conrad Murray, directly led to his premature death at the age of 50."

The packed courtroom included Jackson's family and when the photo of Jackson's corpse was show, Latoya Jackson could be seen passing tissues to Janet Jackson.

Conrad Murray Defense Says He Was Weaning MJ Off of Propofol

Chernoff told the court that Murray isn't to blame for Jackson's death, and that Jackson gave himself a lethal dose of of drugs.

Murray, in a gray pin-striped suit, looked stunned at the evidence compiled against him. He cried when his defense attorney Chernoff, delivered the defense's opening statement.

"While Michael Jackson was frustrated because he could not sleep, frustrated because his doctor refused to give him a drug that he preferred, that he wanted, he did an act without his doctor's knowledge, without his doctor's permission," Chernoff said.

The defense claimed that Jackson took a sedative and then a final dose of propofol without his doctor's knowledge. The sedative lorazepam coupled with the propofol created a "perfect storm in his body that killed him instantly," Chernoff said.

"When Dr. Murray came into the room and found Michael Jackson, there was no CPR, there was no doctor, no paramedic, no machine that was going to revive Michael Jackson. He died so rapidly, so instantly, he didn't even have time to close his eyes," Chernoff said.

The defense contends that Murray had begun trying to wean Jackson off of the propofol in the days before his death. They said that Jackson compartmentalized his life in such a way that Murray was unaware that his client was addicted to demerol. Chernoff said that Jackson had become addicted to demerol from visiting dermatologist Arnold Klein.

A side effect of demerol use is an inability to sleep.

"It was an absolute, total and thorough inability to sleep. Not for minutes, not for hours. For days," Chernoff said.

"Michael Jackson told Dr. Murray that his insomnia was the result of his mind always racing ... it was the genius of him ... and perhaps that's partly true ... but it was also the demerol," Chernoff said.

The prosecution argued that Murray was not forthcoming with detectives and first responders about Jackson's propofol use. They claim that phone records show that Jackson was left unattended while under the drug and that 911 was not called right away when Jackson was first found unresponsive.

"It will be clear that Conrad Murray abandoned Michael when he needed help. It was Conrad Murray's gross negligence, it was Conrad Murray's unskilled hands and his desire to obtain this lucrative contract of $150,000 a month that led Dr. Murray to not only abandon his patient, but to abandon all principles of medical care," Walgren said.

Walgren also showed pictures of Jackson's bedroom to show how medical monitoring devices typically used when someone is under anesthesia were not there or appeared unused. A blood pressure cuff was still in a box and an oxygen tank had no oxygen, Walgren said.

Propofol is typically administered in an operating room and is commonly referred to as "milk" among addicts.

Prosecution Won't Call Jackson Kids to Witness Stand

One thing prosecutors aren't expected to do during the trial is call any of Jackson's three kids to the witness stand. However, legal experts said that it doesn't mean the kids might not testify on behalf of defense lawyers.

"I think if the prosecution doesn't call one of the kids, then the defense probably will ... I don't think it would be a surprise to me to see one or more of those kids testify," veteran defense attorney Mark Geragos said.

ABC News' legal analyst Dan Abrams said he thinks there's a good chance that Murray will take the stand in his own defense.

"No one is questioning that Dr. Murray administered certain drugs that are extremely controversial...it's not a who done it, it's this technical, legal standard of recklessness," Abrams said. "The defense might have to call Dr. Murray in the end."

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