By Sonya Magett, EnStars | Apr 30, 2013 11:15 AM EDT
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An attorney for Michael Jackson's heirs and the defendants relayed their opening arguments in court on Monday, the first day of the pop singer's wrongful death trial.
Attorney for the defendants Marvin Putnam, who represents concert promotion company AEG Live, told the jury that Jackson's biggest secret was hidden even from his family - that he had a prolonged 20-year addiction to Propofol.
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"No one knew about Propofol. Not his mother, not his children, not the staff in the house and certainly not anyone working on the tour," Putnam told to the jury, according to New York Daily News.
Jackson's mother, Katherine Jackson, and his three children - Prince, 16, Paris, 15 and Blanket, 11- together filed a civil suit in 2010 seeking billions Michael would have earned had he not died from an overdose of Propofol in his home in June 2009 at the age of 50. AEG Live coordinated Michael's This Is It concert tour, which was scheduled to begin at London's O2 Arena.
"The truth is that Michael Jackson kept those who might have been able to help him at a distance," said the defending attorney. "And he made sure no one knew his deepest darkest secret - that he was using Propofol to try and sleep."
"This case is about the choices we make," Putnam added. "We make our own choices, and when we make our own choices, there's a personal responsibility with that."
Putnam said Michael's former nurse Debbie Rowe - who is also the surrogate that gave birth to his daughter, Paris - will testify about the Beat It singer's deadly habit.
"(She) will tell you she saw several doctors put Mr. Jackson to sleep with Propofol overnight in hotel rooms while he was touring," Putnam said of Rowe's upcoming testimony. "Ms. Rowe knew this was incredibly dangerous. She would always insist on being there when he got Propofol overnight."
Katherine's attorney, Brian Panish, countered the defense claims by saying the King of Pop's 2009 death was caused by "ruthless" AEG Live concert promoters. Panish presented emails to the jury to validate the family's claim that the company was more concerned with making money than Michael's health troubles and drug addiction.
"We're here today because Mrs. Jackson and her family and children want the full story told," Panish told the jury of six men and six women. "We're not looking for any sympathy. We're looking for truth and justice. We want AEG to be held responsible."
Panish told the jury that AEG hired Dr. Conrad Murray and paid him $150,000 a month instead of retaining the doctor Jackson used on previous tours, Dr. Finkelstein. The latter met with the company and would have charged $40,000 a month. AEG denied retaining Murray, who is serving time in jail for providing the entertainer an overdose of Propofol as a sleep aid that ultimately led to his death.
Panish presented evidence to prove the concert company was aware of Jackson's history of addiction to the surgical anesthetic stemming from the 1990s. His proof was in the form of several emails exchanged between the tour staff.
"There were no rules. It didn't matter to them what it took. They were going to get it done," Panish said of AEG's focus on supplying Jackson with whatever it took to get him to perform. "No matter what problems Michael Jackson had . . . there was nothing, nothing going to get in the way."
AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips described Jackson in one email as an "emotionally paralyzed mess riddled with self-loathing and doubt now that it's show time," adding that the pop superstar was "scared to death." Jackson was drunk before his press conference to announce the tour and he was the "scariest thing I have ever seen," Phillips said in his March 2009 email to Tim Leiweke, the former CEO of AEG's parent company.
Another email Panish provided showed that AEG Live co-CEO Paul Gongaware asked the concert's director, Kenny Ortega, to "remind (Murray) that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary," after the doctor let Jackson skip rehearsals for medical reasons.
The scathing email was written 11 days before Jackson died.
Finkelstein medically supervised the pop singer on his Dangerous from 1992-1993. He testified in a deposition hearing prior to the trial that Gongaware was told before Michael's death that the singer needed an intervention and detox for his addiction to painkillers taken for burns he suffered from a 1984 Pepsi commercial.
The trial is expected to last several months and celebrities that were Michael's longtime friends and frequent collaborators are expected to testify. Likely stars to be called to the stand include filmmaker Spike Lee, Thriller music producer Quincy Jones, Diana Ross, 1980's Incredible Hulk star Lou Ferrigno and Purple Rain singer Prince. Jackson's ex-wife, Lisa Marie Presley, and Dr. Murray will also likely testify.
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