- Created on 03 May 2013
(CNN) -- A lawyer for Michael Jackson's family seemed satisfied as he left the Los Angeles courthouse after the first week of the pop star's wrongful death trial.
"There's a long way to go and we hope the evidence supports -- and we believe it does -- that Dr. (Conrad) Murray was unfit for the job he was hired to do," attorney Brian Panish said. "He was financially motivated and was in serious financial straits."
Jackson's mother and three children are suing AEG Live, contending the concert promoter is liable in the pop icon's death because it hired, retained and/or supervised Murray, the doctor convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Murray's fatal treatment of Jackson with the surgical anesthetic the coroner ruled killed him was the result of the doctors' financial desperation and pressure from AEG executives to have Jackson ready for rehearsals for his comeback tour, Jackson lawyers argue.
AEG contends it was Jackson who chose and controlled Murray, not its executives. The company had no way of knowing what treatments the doctor was giving the singer, who it said was an expert at keeping his "deepest, darkest secret"
The trial's first witness was a paramedic who arrived at Jackson's home at 12:26 p.m. on June 25, 2009 to find a man who he initially thought was a hospice patient who had died after a long illness. Jackson lawyers see that description as support for their argument that AEG execs should have realized the frailty of Jackson's health.
The second witness was the Los Angeles Police detective who led the investigation of Jackson's death. Orlando Martinez arrived at court Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday wearing a black cowboy hat, which he said is not part of his uniform as a homicide investigator, but "the chief tolerates it."
The trial is off until Monday, when the coroner's toxicologist will give scientific testimony about the drugs found in Jackson's body after his autopsy. The doctor who conducted the autopsy will follow on the witness stand.
When AEG Live first talked to Murray about working as Michael Jackson's tour doctor, he asked for $5 million for a year. Now we know why.
Court records and credit reports showed Murray was at least $1 million in debt, including delinquent taxes, defaulted student loans, unpaid child support and a defaulted mortgage. His Las Vegas home, which had dropped in value by $500,000, was in foreclosure and his medical clinic was being evicted from an office building, according to records introduced as evidence in the trial.
Murray's chances of catching up financially became an achievable goal when AEG Live agreed to pay him $150,000 a month. Before that, his monthly expenses totaled $2,700 more than his income, according to one document.
Martinez testified that he concluded this was a major incentive for Murray to "break the rules, bend the rules, to do whatever he needed to do to get paid."
Jackson lawyers contend AEG could have at least run a credit check on Murray before giving him the responsibility of caring for Michael Jackson. It should have been a red flag warning that he would put his paycheck above his Hippocratic Oath.
The Jackson death trial jury broke out into laughter at the oddest time Thursday -- when Panish asked Martinez about another Murray patient who died under his care.
A Las Vegas man called Los Angeles police to tell them about how he thought Murray's negligence caused his father's death. The man said he didn't file a medical malpractice suit because Nevada law discouraged him.
Panish: "You learned Conrad Murray wasn't sued for malpractice, but he had killed someone else?" (The jury laughs.)
Panish: "You learned that Dr. Murray had caused the wrongful death of someone else?"
AEG's lawyer brought out a document showing the coroner ruled the man's death was from natural causes -- a heart attack.
Martinez also testified that Murray had been suspended from hospitals three times in the decade before Jackson's death. The loss of hospital privileges in one case was because he failed to promptly respond to a phone call when he was on call. The others appeared to be based on failure to follow record keeping procedures.
Elvis' ghost haunts Jackson trial
Jackson lawyers will argue that a background check on Murray by AEG executives would have revealed these and served as red flag warnings that he should not be Jackson's tour doctor. AEG lawyer will contend they had no way of knowing.
'One Jackson' policy
Only one of Katherine Jackson's eight sons and daughters can sit with her in court at one time, the judge ruled this week. Unlike in Murray's criminal trial when all of the Jacksons filled a courtroom bench at times, the family will have just two seats throughout the civil trial.
The limit was imposed because all of the Jacksons -- with the exception of Marlon -- are on AEG's witness list. AEG lawyers objected when they saw Randy and Rebbie sitting with their mother as the first witnesses testified. There is "a risk in allowing any of them in the courtroom," an AEG lawyer argued. The risk is their own testimony would be influenced by hearing the testimony of others, she said.
Panish successfully argued that at least one should be allowed to sit with their 82-year-old mother, who plans to be in court each day -- except for the gruesome medical testimony about her son's autopsy.
"I think Mrs. Jackson should have at least one support person in the court room," he said.
The Jacksons star power could influence jurors who sit just a few feet away from them in the tiny courtroom.
AEG lawyers plan to call Janet, Jermaine, Jackie, Tito, La Toya, Rebbie and Randy Jackson to testify about their failed attempts to intervene with Michael Jackson's drug addiction and their lack of knowledge about what was happening to him. Only brother Marlon Jackson is not on the defense witness list.
AEG is trying to show that Jackson was able to deceive even those close to him about his drug use, which helps their argument that executives with the concert promoter could not have known about it.
The lawsuit contends that even if the executives didn't know about Murray's dangerous treatments, they should have.
Katherine Jackson told investigators that her family "attempted several interventions and she had spoken to her son about possible problems with drugs herself," Martinez testified Thursday. "He denied having a problem."
An intervention at Jackson's Neverland ranch, organized by sister Janet, failed because "Michael didn't want to participate," Martinez said.
The Los Angeles mansion where Michael Jackson died was clean and neat, except for Jackson's bedroom, according to Martinez. Jurors saw police photos taken hours after the pop icon's death, showing disorganized closets, cardboard boxes lining the hallway and a general mess throughout.
AEG lawyer Marvin Putnam spent several minutes questioning Martinez about the messiness. During the lunch break, the Jacksons' lawyer joked to reporters that Putnam has succeeded in proving Michael Jackson was messy.
Back in court, Panish asked the detective: "Is there anywhere in the penal code that says if you have a messy room that's against the law?" The jury thought that was funny and laughed.
Panish: "You've come across scenes that had a messy room?"
Panish: "And that's an indication that someone is not doing well, that their health is bad and they can't clean the room?"
Panish: "There were moving boxes in the room?"
Panish: "Did you know he was planning to go to England? Within a week or two he was leaving that residence?"
When Martinez walked into the upstairs master bedroom,, he found the gas fireplace was burning, the television was on and music coming from the CD player. Except for Murray, "only the chef who can drop off food at the door" was allowed upstairs, he testified.
- Created on 02 May 2013
The landscape of Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Festivals has changed in recent history, with the emergence of an additional group of festival producers – the Muhammad family.
Their concept aims to re-capture the essence of the original Sweet Auburn Festival in full swing during the ‘70s and ‘80s. That original festival essence, believes the Muhammad family, is compellingly captured through this year’s Sweet Auburn Music Fest’s focus on family, music, culture, and community involvement.
“I was involved when the festival first brought thousands of people to Auburn Avenue and the entire community benefited,” says senior producer and Auburn Avenue businessman Steven Muhammad. “I do not approve of the profiteering that has taken place in the past decade, and we are determined to get it right, once again.”
S.E. Region News conferred with Mr. Bennie Smith, the founder of the first Sweet Auburn Festival, to get some sense of the character of the first Festival.
“The idea began in 1976,” claimed Smith. “It was to circulate the money back into the community – that’s why I became involved. All of us who had businesses wanted a cleaner, safer environment. Every business bought into it. It was universal. ”
Smith went on to recount how he had been urged by the late Dr. William Holmes Borders, then the politically influential pastor of Wheat Street Baptist Church, to “make something happen on Auburn Ave.”, to revitalize Sweet Auburn, known as “Sweet”, because it was acknowledged as the wealthiest black business district in the country at one time.
In 1986, the Festival, according to long-time community businessman Smith, was especially noteworthy, with appearances of James Brown, SCLC civil rights icon Hosea Williams, barbecue cooking by the Rib Shack, and the March Against Crime and Violence. “The merchants and the entire community on Auburn Ave. participated,” Smith shared. “We had the popular entertainers of the time to sponsor and help underwrite the costs of the Festival. And the merchants thrived from the Festival, out of their participation in the Sweet Auburn Merchant Association.”
“We want to see progress on Auburn Avenue. Atlanta’s economic power brokers and those constructing the Trolley must commit to reviving Auburn Avenue,” emphasizes executive producer Yusuf Muhammad. “We want everyone to benefit, so we’re taking this Festival back to its original essence, as a community-based, inclusive event.”
The Muhammad’s Sweet Auburn Music Fest will hold a news conference Thursday at 1:00 pm to launch the Festival at the historic Peacock Lounge (186 Auburn Ave., Atlanta 30303). Gladys Knight, an Atlanta native, and Dr. Yamma Brown, James Brown’s daughter, will be there to accept the inaugural "Walk of Fame" award being presented jointly by Radio One and the Sweet Auburn Music Festival (FCE Entertainment). Cathelean Steele, First Lady of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Director of SCLC’s Justice For Girls, will also participate.
- Created on 30 April 2013
The Web series Mommy Uncensored is packing up its Sippy cups and diaper bags to get ready for a new season.
According to Justin Jordan, co-creator and director, Season Two is raucous and real on a "whole new level." Complex story lines deal with strained friendship, cheating, insecurities, the objectification of women in media, domestic life, among others. "We've added great actors and directors to the team, who come from the Big Screen and Broadway," he said.
The show follows the trials and tribulations of Karen Wright as she tries to juggle motherhood, marriage and the manic moments intrinsic to both. Based on the real-life experiences of Justin and his wife, Charity Jordan, the show became an instant hit with mothers everywhere during season one.
Co-creator and star, Charity, shares in the secrets for what's coming up. "Season Two is juicy! In season one, Karen was trying to keep her head above water and adapt to the new responsibilities that came along with motherhood. In season two, Karen's home life has begun to stabilize as she settles into her new role as Mommy. Now, motherhood is affecting her relationships – how she relates to others and how others relate to her."
Justin adds, "Mommy Uncensored is the first show I've seen that keeps it real on parenthood, and the daily struggles a mom (and dad) face to maintain one's identity, social life, and marriage in the world of diapers and minivans. These are our lived-in stories for everyone who's had an awkward moment, like mis-congratulating a non-pregnant woman. The show is fun, real and therapeutic comedy for every mom and dad who's felt the pressure of cashing in their cool points for onesies."
Season Two can be seen on youtube.com/MommyUncensored.
- Created on 30 April 2013
The Affordable Old School Concert Series is a four-show concert series designed to expose and entertain a diverse audience with a variety of old-school hip-hop and R&B music.
Guardians of the soul and funk tradition, Tony! Toni! Toné!, will take command of the stage at the Wolf Creek Amphitheater on Saturday, May 4, in the first of four concerts in an Old School Series. The multi-gold record and double platinum album-holding group will perform their hit R&B singles along with Whodini, Silk, and Chubb Rock. Comedian J.J. Williamson will round out the list of music talent.
Tony! Toni! Toné! released their fourth album, House of Music, in the fall of 1996. They continued to produce hit singles such as the memorable "Feels Good," "Anniversary," "It Never Rains in Southern California" and "Whatever You Want" all topping the R&B charts.
Doors open at 5 p.m. and the concert will begin at 7 p.m. with The Planet Jazz All-Stars featuring Phillipia opening the show. The doors will open two hours prior to show time in order to allow concert-goers time to bring in their own food, beverages and coolers. Wolf Creek Amphitheater will also have several food and beverage vendors on site for patrons who choose not to bring in their own food and beverages.
Tickets are on sale now at www.TicketAlternative.com (877-725-8879). Visit the Wolf Creek Amphitheater website at www.WolfCreekAmphitheater.com for any additional updates.
- Created on 26 April 2013
Editor's note: This article may contain spoilers.
(CNN) -- The timing couldn't be any better, or worse, for Mira Nair's film of Mohsin Hamid's novel, a sympathetic portrait of a gifted, intelligent young Pakistani whose love affair with the American dream ends in disenchantment, mistrust and violence.
This would have been a provocative movie to release at any time since 9/11, but especially so in the immediate aftermath of the Boston bombings. Still, if we're to come to any understanding of the terrorist mentality, movies are a relatively safe and responsible place to start looking.
In the opening scenes, the CIA responds to the kidnapping of a European academic in Lahore, Pakistan. A U.S. journalist who is also an undercover operative for the agency (Liev Schreiber) is sent to interview one of the professor's colleagues, a local whose classes are reported to be stirring up young Muslims and who is a known associate of jihadists. Changez (Riz Ahmed) agrees to talk, but only if the American promises to hear him out and get the full story.
Changez, it's not pronounced like the David Bowie song, but it could easily be read that way, starts out as if he means to become one of Tom Wolfe's "Masters of the Universe," a Princeton business grad whose ruthlessness puts him on the fast track at Underwood Sampson, a Wall Street valuations firm. He even dates the chairman's daughter (Kate Hudson, valiantly trying to find roots for an elusive character).
The business saga is entertaining in a snappy, sub-Oliver Stone finger-wagging vein -- Kiefer Sutherland is in strong form as his steely mentor -- but things sour for Changez when the World Trade Center comes down. Suddenly the up-and-coming executive is being strip-searched at airports and advised to shave his beard. He's treated like an alien and comes to feel like one. It forces him to rethink his own identity, his heritage and spiritual values and for the first time he questions the profit-motive that has driven his success.
The film's twin-track structure doesn't really work: the lengthy reminiscences of the disenchanted capitalist completely overwhelm the present tense against-the-clock hostage drama. Is Changez playing for time, to aid his al-Qaeda buddies? Nair doesn't seem interested in fleshing out that suggestion, and melodramatic scenes with Martin Donovan as the CIA field chief eavesdropping on the conversation fall well below the authenticity of "Zero Dark Thirty."
Still, the exchanges between Schreiber and Ahmed -- an intense, edgy British actor some may recognize from the black comedy "Four Lions" and Michael Winterbottom's "Trishna" -- do shed some light on the 21st century's most volatile culture clash.
In the starkest of these, Changez confesses that his first reaction to the planes hitting the towers was... pleasure.
It's a brave acknowledgment of an unspeakable emotion, a moment that will repel many in the audience just as clearly as it disgusts Schreiber, but which is worth hearing not because it's provocative, but because it rings true.
There are hard shards of brutal honesty dispersed elsewhere too. When Changez and his American girlfriend first make love, she stops; she's still mourning the love of her life. "Pretend I'm him," he urges, an impulse that doesn't just speak to the male's desire, but also to the immigrant's need to fit in. And then, later, the other side of the equation, when, teaching in Lahore, he challenges his students to articulate what a "Pakistan Dream" might look like...?
Too prescriptive and too novelistic to fully come to life, at least "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" doesn't demean its characters or its audience. It's a dogged, thoughtful and well-acted movie that might have been more effective if it kept a narrower focus.