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Two days before he died, Michael Jackson appeared strong during one of the final rehearsals for his highly anticipated comeback concerts, a promoter told jurors Wednesday as the involuntary manslaughter trial of the pop superstar’s physician entered its second day.
Paul Gongaware, an executive for AEG Live, said Jackson appeared engaged and energetic during the session.
Prosecutors called Gongaware to show the importance of Jackson’s comeback concerts and in an apparent attempt to show that both the singer and his physician were deeply engaged in preparations for the show before Jackson died on June 25, 2009.
Gongaware also testified that he saw Dr. Conrad Murray at one of Jackson’s rehearsals after people affiliated with the planned concerts complained that the singer had been missing some of the sessions.
Prosecutors wrapped up their direct questioning of Gongaware before defense attorney Ed Chernoff briefly questioned the executive.
Under the cross-examination, Gongaware acknowledged the concert giant is being sued by Jackson’s mother for negligent supervision of defendant Murray when he worked with Jackson.
Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with Jackson’s death.
Prosecutors allege Murray caused Jackson’s death by providing him with a lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol and other sedatives without the proper lifesaving equipment or skills.
Another AEG employee, attorney Kathy Jorrie, testified about drafting a contract for Murray to work as Jackson’s personal physician.
At one point in negotiations, Murray requested his contract be modified to allow him to hire another physician in case he was tired or unavailable while Jackson was performing in London, she testified.
“He wanted to make sure that there was somebody else available to be of assistance,” Jarrie said.
Prosecutors also planned to call one of Jackson’s bodyguards and his personal assistant, who Murray frantically called after he found the singer unconscious.
In opening statements Tuesday, Deputy District Attorney David Walgren said Murray delayed summoning emergency crews and lied to doctors and medics when he failed to reveal he had been giving Jackson the medications to try to help the entertainer sleep.
Chernoff claimed Jackson gave himself a fatal dose of medication in a desperate attempt to get some sleep.
He said Murray had been trying to wean Jackson off propofol, but the entertainer kept requesting it on the day he died.
“Michael Jackson started begging,” Chernoff said. “When Michael Jackson told Dr. Murray, `I have to sleep. They will cancel my performance,’ he meant it.”
He told jurors that Jackson swallowed enough of the sedative lorazepam to put six people to sleep before ingesting propofol. The combination, which Chernoff called a “perfect storm” of medications, killed Jackson so quickly that he didn’t even have chance to close his eyes.
Prosecutors rejected Murray’s version and told jurors the Houston-based cardiologist also had a tremendous stake in Jackson appearing in the concerts.
The doctor had initially asked to be paid $5 million a year for working with Jackson, but Gongaware said he immediately rejected the proposal. Instead, Murray accepted an offer to become Jackson’s doctor for $150,000 a month — a sum he was never paid because his contract hadn’t been signed before Jackson’s death.
If convicted, Murray could face up to four years in prison and have to relinquish his medical license.