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Michael Jackson trial: Day 2 to start with 'This Is It' producer

September 28, 2011 |  5:30 am

Paul Gongaware testifies at Conrad Murray's trial

On the second day of trial, a concert promoter and producer on Michael Jackson’s ill-fated "This Is It" tour will return to the stand Wednesday to testify about the singer’s last days and the doctor charged with causing his death.

Paul Gongaware, co-chief executive of AEG Live, testified Tuesday that he negotiated the terms when Dr. Conrad Murray was hired to be Jackson’s personal physician during his London tour.

Jackson insisted on having his doctor of choice -- Murray -- and, gesturing to himself, said: "This is the machine, you have to take care of the machine," Gongaware testified.

Live video: Full coverage of Conrad Murray's trial

When he called Murray about the job, Gongaware recalled, Murray asked for a $5-million-a-year salary, saying he would need to close four clinics and lay off employees. "I told him there was no way that was going to happen," he said.

Murray later took the job for at $150,000 per month.

  Jackson was "totally engaged" in the production of the tour, initially saying he wanted to do 31 shows to top Prince’s 21 at London’s O2 arena, Gongaware said.

"He was very enthusiastic about this whole tour," Gongaware testified Tuesday.

The early stages of Gongaware's testimony came after an emotion-filled first day of trial. It included Murray breaking down at the defense table, Jackson's mother weeping in the spectators' gallery and Murray's supporters convening a prayer circle on the courthouse grounds.

The first day also included Michael Jackson's own voice echoing through a packed courtroom, low and woozy, and apparently heavily drugged.

"I want them to say, 'I've never seen nothing like this in my life,' " he mumbled on the audio recording. " 'He's the greatest entertainer of all time.' "

As Jackson spoke, his mother, Katherine Jackson, cried, her hand held by daughter La Toya.

The audio file recovered from Murray's iPhone came as a surprise to trial watchers. Prosecutors had never played it publicly. But it promises to be a key element of their case -- proof that Murray was aware of Jackson's "state," even as he continued ordering more drugs, said Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgren.

"Michael Jackson literally put his life in the hands of Conrad Murray," Walgren said, adding, "That misplaced trust cost Michael Jackson his life."

The defense suggested that Jackson self-administered a lethal dose of the surgical anesthetic propofol -- a drug the pop star called "milk" and used as a sleeping aid.

Murray's attorney Ed Chernoff said scientific evidence would show that Jackson swallowed eight tablets of the sedative lorazepam — "enough to put six of you to sleep" — and then self-administered propofol while Murray was out of the room.

He called the combination of drugs "a perfect storm" and said no medical attention could have saved the singer.

"He died rapidly, so instantly he didn't even have time to close his eyes," Chernoff said.


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-- Victoria Kim and Harriet Ryan

Photo: Paul Gongaware, co-chief executive of AEG Live, testifies Tuesday at Conrad Murray's trial.

Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times