News / Arts & Entertainment

Witness: Pop Icon Michael Jackson Was in Bad Shape Before Death

In this March 5, 2009, file photo Michael Jackson announced that he was embarking on a series of live concerts. He died June 25 of that year.
In this March 5, 2009, file photo Michael Jackson announced that he was embarking on a series of live concerts. He died June 25 of that year.
VOA News

A week before his death, Michael Jackson was a shivering wreck.

“I saw a Michael that frightened me, a Michael that was shivering and cold,” a tearful Kenny Ortega told a Los Angeles court this week. He was testifying in the “wrongful-death” lawsuit filed by Katherine Jackson, Michael’s mother, against her son’s concert promoters, AEG Live.

Katherine Jackson claims the promoters are responsible for the actions of the doctor who administered a powerful anesthetic that killed the late singer.

Kenny Ortega was directing the shows, which were to have been a comeback for the pop star. But Jackson was missing most of the rehearsals, and when he did show up, Ortega says the singer “appeared lost, cold, afraid.”

Ortega said he was so worried about Jackson’s condition that he emailed the concert promoters to warn them: “There are strong signs of paranoia, anxiety and obsessive-like behavior.”

Ortega read the email aloud in the courtroom. “I think the very best thing we can do is get a top psychiatrist in to evaluate him ASAP [as soon as possible]. It’s like there are two people there. One (deep inside) trying to hold on to what he was and still can be and not wanting us to quit him. The other in this weakened and troubled state.”

Weeks of testimony to go

Testimony in the wrongful death trial has been going on for more than a month, and witnesses have painted a grim picture of the superstar’s life offstage.

The head of AEG Live, Randy Phillips, admitted in court that on March 5, 2009 he had “slapped” Jackson because the singer was unready for a publicity event. In an email to another company executive, Phillips wrote “I screamed at him so loud the walls were shaking.”

A physician hired for Jackson’s “Dangerous” tour in 1993, Dr. Stuart Finkelstein, told the court he was convinced then the singer was a addicted to opiates.

In Bangkok that year, Jackson had complained of a terrible headache. Finkelstein testified that Jackson’s Los Angeles doctor instructed him by phone to give the pop star powerful painkillers. But when he went to inject Jackson with Demerol, he found “his buttocks were so scarred up and abscessed that the needle almost bent,” Dr. Finkelstein told the court.

“He obviously had had multiple injections in his buttocks prior to arriving in Bangkok” the physician said.

Court observers expect the case to stretch into August.

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