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“There was nothing anatomically wrong with him”: The Jacksons v AEG Live

By | Published on Tuesday 7 May 2013

Michael Jackson

The first few days of the high profile Jacksons v AEG Live court case have continued to be dominated by evidence from detectives and medical experts.

In the main testimonies have paralleled those given at the start of the criminal trial of Conrad Murray, the doctor found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for causing Michael Jackson’s death through negligence in 2009. In the civil case, of course, the Jackson family are trying to prove that AEG should be held liable for the late king of pop’s demise because the company, as promoter of the singer’s ill-fated ‘This Is It’ shows, paid the medic’s bills.

Jurors in the new case saw photos from the late popstar’s autopsy, and heard from Dr Christopher Rogers, who conducted the post-mortem back in 2009. Throwing the spotlight on details the Jackson family would presumably have preferred to have gone unnoticed, jurors learned that Rogers’ autopsy report stated that the singer’s lips were tattooed pink, that his eyebrows were also a tattoo, and that the front of his scalp was tattooed black, seemingly to blend his hairline in with the wigs he wore.

The report also confirmed, as Jackson himself had long insisted, that the singer suffered from vitiligo, a skin pigmentation disease that, in Rogers words, meant “some areas of the skin appear light and others appear dark”. This was a fact in the post-mortem report that the Jacksons’ lawyers seemed more keen for the court to note, presumably as it backed up the singer’s frequent response to critics who questioned why his skin became so much lighter as he aged.

In his report, Rogers concluded – as did the criminal courts – that it was Jackson’s consumption of the surgical anaesthetic propofol, used by the singer to aid sleep, that caused his death, though other sedatives in the star’s system at the time may have also been contributing factors. There was no sign the singer ever used ‘street drugs’, the autopsy document added, nor of any kind of wider illness, beyond addiction to prescription medication.

Indeed the doctor added that, despite Jackson often looking frail in his latter years, and despite an earlier testimony that said the singer looked like someone who had died after battling a long disease shortly after his passing, “there was no indication that there was anything anatomically wrong with [the singer] that would lead to premature death”. That point could prove important if AEG is deemed liable for Murray’s actions, because Jackson’s life expectancy will be relevant when assessing damages.

Also giving evidence yesterday was the LA coroner’s toxicologist Dan Anderson, who studied the drugs in Jackson’s body after his death.

He told the court that the level of propofol found in Jackson’s body was “consistent with major surgery anaesthesia”, adding that the subsequent discovery of bottles of the drug in Jackson’s home, ie outside of a hospital, was “highly unusual” and immediately raised “red flags” about the treatment the singer was receiving. It was no secret that the use of propofol could be dangerous in the wrong environment, he added, with the LA coroner’s records recording six incidents in the last fourteen years where medical personnel used the drug to end their own lives through suicide.

Other prescription medications Anderson said were in Jackson’s system at the time of his death, according to the LA Times, included the anti-anxiety drugs Valium and lorazepam, the short-term anaesthetic midazolam, and lidocaine, a numbing cream that paramedics sometimes use in resuscitation efforts. Meanwhile investigators found the antidepressant trazodone and the prostate drug Flomax at the singer’s home. Most of these drugs had been prescribed by Murray.

The case continues.