19 Jul 2013
Katherine Jackson breaks down in court, tells jury her son 'was not a freak'
Mona Edwards / Reuters
A courtroom sketch depicts the testimony of Katherine Jackson, mother of late pop star Michael Jackson, at Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday.
For 12 weeks, Katherine Jackson has sat patiently in the Los Angeles courtroom where she is suing her late son's concert promoters and listened to other people describe Michael Jackson, his last weeks alive and his sudden death.
Finally given the turn to speak on Friday, Jackson told the court, "My son is not a freak."
"The most difficult thing is to sit here in this court and listen to all the bad things they say about my son," the soft-spoken 83-year-old mother and grandmother said as she began her long-anticipated testimony in her case against AEG Live.
Wearing a purple floral blazer and purple shirt, the self-proclaimed "private" grandmother had to reveal things about her family she would have preferred to keep to herself. Among them: that Michael's 15-year-old daughter Paris recently tried to kill herself because "she wanted to go where daddy was."
Katherine Jackson wept often during her testimony, including when she saw footage of her son singing, dancing, and introducing his famous moonwalk during 1983's "Motown 25" special. Even as a baby, her son was "dancing around," pretending his bottle was a microphone, she said. "He was born that way, dancing around. He wouldn't be still."
Katherine also spoke of all the things Michael Jackson had done for her over the years, including remodeling her house and plastering a room in her house with wall-to-wall family photos. A video of Neverland, his enormous California home, was shown, and Katherine described the property. She said her grandchildren "loved Neverland."
Katherine then admitted Michael suffered pain from "bad burns," back injuries, and had the skin condition vitiligo. She said she knew Michael took pain pills, and she heard from her other children that Michael was abusing prescription medication, but she didn't know what to believe. She said she visited him in Las Vegas a few years ago to ask him about it.
"He promised, he kept saying, 'I'm OK,'" she told the jury. "Sometimes the mother is the last to know."
She said no one could ask for "a better son than Michael," and that she was financially dependent on him, adding, "he gave me everything."
Jackson said the first time she met Conrad Murray, the physician who administered Jackson's lethal dose of propofol, was at the hospital the day her son died.
"My son needed another doctor," she testified. "Not Dr. Murray."
"They told me, 'he didn’t make it, he didn’t make it," Jackson recalled. "I just started screaming," she said, crying and clutching a tissue in one of her hands. Jackson was then put in a room with two of Michael's children, Paris and Prince Michael ("Blanket"), 11. She said granddaughter Paris kept looking skyward saying, "I can't live without you. I'm going with you."
Wiping her face with a tissue, Katherine said the adjustment has been hard for Paris, who dotted her room with photos of her father. "I thought she was the bravest. She had a very hard time at first."
On cross-examination, Katherine admitted it was her choice alone to bring this lawsuit against AEG. She said it was hard sitting in court "listening to people call her son a freak ... it hurts to sit in court and hear all these things. It’s hard for me listening to how sick my son was and nobody was helping him."
"He was not a freak," she added.
Jackson and her grandchildren's suit alleges that AEG Live, the entertainment company that promoted Michael Jackson’s last concerts, failed to pick up on warning signs that could have saved his life. The suit also alleges that AEG didn’t properly investigate Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the singer's death in 2011 and sentenced to four years in prison.
AEG denies hiring Murray; the company says Jackson hired the physician, and says it wasn’t responsible in any way for his death.
The King of Pop died while rehearsing for "This is It," a 50-show series in London, three weeks before the tour was to start. He had last toured in 1997. Katherine testified that she had called AEG Live to express her view that her son could have done 50 shows, but not if they were spaced so closely together.
"He couldn't do every other night like AEG wanted him to do at first," she said.
Other family members have also taken the witness stand. Michael’s son, 16-year-old Michael Jackson, Jr., known as "Prince," recalled that while preparing for the 2009 tour, his father would sometimes come down the stairs and be "freezing cold" and "not strong enough." Jackson looked "malnourished," his son said.
On the day of his father's death, Prince Jackson testified that he found his father "hanging halfway off the bed and his eyes were rolling back in his head. "Murray was doing CPR. My sister was screaming the whole time saying she wants her daddy. I was waiting at the bottom of the stairs crying." When they got to the hospital, he told his sister, "Angels were watching over us," and tried to remain optimistic, but then Murray delivered the news that their father had suffered a heart attack.
Videotaped testimony of Paris Jackson, who is recovering from her suicide attempt at a residential treatment facility. was also shown to the jury of six men and women will decide the case. Katherine Jackson is expected to be the final plaintiff's witness in the case and conclude her testimony on Monday.
Asked by her lawyer if she missed Michael, Katherine Jackson replied: "Words can't explain" and began to cry.
This report contains additional reporting from NBC News staff writer Elizabeth Chuck and E! Newsproducer Claudia Rosenbaum.