After a five-month long trial where attorneys questioned 58 witnesses, jurors in the Jackson v. AEG trial concluded 12-0 that the concert promoter was not liable for the death of superstar Michael Jackson. Now, the attorney who represented the Jackson family in the case says he is considering all options, including appealing the verdict because the wording of one of the questions posed to jurors may have cost them the case.
"In talking to the jurors, it appears they were confused by one of the questions on the verdict form," said Jackson family attorney Brian Panish in an exclusive interview with hosts Mari Fagel and Eboni K. Williams on Black Hollywood Live's Justice is Served.
The first question on the verdict form was, "Did AEG hire Dr. Conrad Murray?" to which jurors unanimously responded, "Yes." The second question read, "Was Dr. Conrad Murray unfit or incompetent to perform the work for which he was hired?" to which jurors unanimously responded, "No."
Panish says jurors misinterpreted the question by focusing on whether Dr. Murray was competent when he was first hired by AEG in May 2009 rather than correctly focusing on whether he was competent throughout the span of his employment up until Jackson's death on June 25th, 2009.
"Jurors thought that they only had to determine whether he was fit and competent at the time he was hired. He was hired to be a general physician, for which he was licensed and qualified as a doctor. But our claim really thrust upon the deterioration of Michael's condition over 60 days and the lack of anything being done and the warnings AEG had and ignored."
Jurors did not submit any questions asking for a clarification of the instructions during deliberations.
Panish says when preparing the jury instructions with the judge, he had requested the question be phrased, was Dr. Conrad Murray fit and competent to perform the work for which he was hired "at any time." However, he says the judge denied the request and ruled that the question would be phrased, was Dr. Conrad Murray fit and competent to perform the work for which he was hired "at the time of hiring."
"There is no question that Dr. Murray was unfit and incompetent for what he did to Michael and I think the jurors all agreed with it," Panish said. "It was the way the question was phrased, was he fit and competent 'when hired' to be a general practice doctor. He was a licensed physician and had he followed his Hippocratic oath, he would have been competent at that time. But it's really deeper than that. As AEG continued on to rehearse and get ready for the This Is It show, Dr. Murray's incompetence began to show more and more."
In his closing arguments, Panish suggested to jurors that Jackson's share of blame for his own death was 20%, but the rest of the blame was on AEG, urging jurors to award the family between $1 billion and $2 billion in damages for what he called AEG Live's share of liability in Jackson's death. Panish says he stands by that argument.
"I believe it was a case of shared responsibility. Michael paid the price with his life, Dr. Murray paid the price by going to jail and AEG walked away. AEG made a bunch of money off of the documentary This is It and merchandise of Michael and they continue to move forward. I don't think this is a case where one side or the other is to blame. I think this was the shared responsibility of numerous things coming together creating the synergy for what happened."
Panish is also urging Dr. Murray to stop denying his own responsibility for Jackson's death.
"Dr. Murray claimed this verdict was a vindication of him. That's not what it was at all. I think Dr. Murray should come forward, tell the truth and admit what he has done," Panish said. "Michael died from the overdose of Propofol given to him by a physician that shouldn't have done it. Michael was a person that trusted doctors, and he believed doctors, and he believed they would do no harm. Unfortunately Dr. Murray sacrificed that for money and fame."
Panish says after having interviewed all of the jurors in the case, he is in talks with appellate lawyers to decide how to proceed. He says he will look into all options in order to provide the Jackson family with the justice they deserve, shooting down allegations that Jackson's family pursued the case solely to continue to profit off of Michael's death.
"This case was a search for the truth, to find some answers," Panish said. "What did AEG know and what did they do? By uncovering a lot of the internal emails and the actions of AEG, we were able to expose what really happened to Michael, what his condition was like, and what AEG failed to do to help Michael. AEG wanted to get the show on the road at any cost and they overrode Michael and unfortunately Michael was desperate and took measures a normal person wouldn't take had he not been in such a desperate situation, being pressured."