Concert promoter cleared of negligence in Michael Jackson's death

Lawsuit by singer's mother promptedfive-month trial

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LOS ANGELES — A jury cleared a concert promoter of negligence on Wednesday in a case that attempted to link the death of Michael Jackson to the company that promoted his ill-fated comeback shows.

The panel rejected a lawsuit brought by Jackson's mother claiming AEG Live was negligent in hiring Conrad Murray, the doctor who killed Jackson with an overdose of a hospital anesthetic the singer used as a sleep aid.

The five-month trial provided the closest look yet at Jackson's drug use and his battles against chronic pain and insomnia.

It also took jurors behind the scenes in the rough-and-tumble world of negotiations, with one of the world's most famous entertainers looking to solidify his legendary status after scandal interrupted his career.

With its verdict, the jury also delivered a somewhat surprising message: Jurors did not believe Murray was unfit or incompetent to perform his duties involving Jackson.

"That doesn't mean we felt he was ethical," jury foreman Gregg Barden said after the verdict was read.

He said the panel knew many people would not agree with the verdict but explained that the jury followed the language of the verdict form and instructions.

The ruling on the competence of Murray ended any further consideration of possible damages and who was at fault for the death.

After the hearing, juror Bryant Carino of Los Angeles was asked who was to blame for Jackson's death.

"I don't want to say whose fault it is," Carino responded. "I'm not one to point fingers."

AEG Live lead defense attorney Marvin S. Putnam said he couldn't be more pleased with the verdict.

"They got it exactly right," he said.

Katherine Jackson told reporters she was OK after the verdict.

A victory could have meant hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for her and the singer's three children and provided a rebuke of AEG Live, the nation's second-largest concert promoter.

Kevin Boyle, an attorney for Katherine Jackson, said he was disappointed with the verdict.

"We, of course, are not happy with the result as it stands now," Boyle said. "We will be exploring all options legally and factually and make a decision about anything at a later time."

He added: "We think that what we've done with this case is prove some things that are important for the Jackson family and for the concert industry and the sports industry with regards to treatment by doctors."

Boyle declined to answer further questions.

Murray was convicted in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter after giving Jackson the overdose as he prepared for the comeback shows dubbed "This Is It." Witnesses at the trial said Jackson saw the concerts as a chance for personal redemption after being acquitted of child molestation.

But as the opening date of the shows approached, associates testified that he had bouts of insecurity and agonized over his inability to sleep. They said he turned to the drug propofol and found Murray, who was willing to buy it in bulk and administer it to him on a nightly basis even though it is not meant to be used outside operating rooms.