LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Jackson’s eldest son testified Wednesday that his father was excited about going back on tour before his death but wasn’t happy about the terms of the ill-fated shows.
Prince Jackson told jurors his father wanted more time to rehearse and had several tense phone conversations with promoters of his “This Is It” shows that sometimes ended with his father in tears.
The 16-year-old said his father remarked after one of the conversations, “‘They’re going to kill me.’” He did not elaborate.
The testimony came in a lawsuit claiming AEG negligently hired Conrad Murray, the doctor who was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson an overdose of the anesthetic propofol.
AEG denies it hired the physician or bears any responsibility for the entertainer’s death.
Prince testified that he saw AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips at the family’s rented mansion in a heated conversation with Murray in the days before his father died. The teenager said he saw Phillips grabbing Murray’s elbow.
Phillips “looked aggressive to me,” Prince testified.
Michael Jackson wasn’t at home at the time and was probably at rehearsals, Prince said.
For the first time, the teenage publicly provided details about the day his father died. Prince testified that he saw Murray performing CPR on his father, who was hanging halfway off a bed. It appeared his dad’s eyes were rolled up in the back of his head, Prince told jurors.
Prince’s eyes appeared red as he recalled being told by Murray at a hospital that his father was dead.
The testimony began with the teenager showing jurors roughly 15 minutes of private family photos and home videos.
He described growing up on Neverland Ranch and showed the panel videos of the property’s petting zoos and other amenities. After his father’s acquittal of child molestation charges, Prince described living in the Middle East, Ireland and Las Vegas.
He told the jury that his father was always working, but his children had no idea he was a global superstar.
“We always listened to his music, but we never knew how famous he was,” Prince said.
He said he and his sister Paris watched a video of one of their father’s performances and got a sense of his fame when overwhelmed fans were carried from his shows on stretchers.
Prince is the first Jackson family member to testify during the trial, now in its ninth week. Attorneys have said TJ Jackson, who serves a co-guardian to Prince and his siblings, and Taj Jackson, are also expected to take the witness stand. They are the sons of Tito Jackson.
Prince Jackson, his sister Paris and brother Blanket are plaintiffs in the case against AEG, which their grandmother and primary caretaker filed in August 2010.
In court, Prince wore a black suit with a dark grey tie with his long brown hair tucked behind his ears. He spoke softly as he began testifying, and the first exhibit shown to jurors was a photo taken with their grandmother on his and Paris’ first day of school.
He described his school life, including taking a summer course in U.S. history, participating on the school’s robotics team and volunteer work.
Another image shown to jurors was Michael Jackson playing piano with his son while Prince was still an infant or toddler.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Brian Panish asked Prince whether he was interested in pursuing a career in music.
“I can never play an instrument and I definitely cannot sing,” Prince said to laughter from the jury.
He said he wanted to study film or business when he goes to college.
Prince said he helped attorneys pick out the videos and photos shown in court.
Michael Jackson sheltered his children from the public eye while he was alive, often obscuring their faces while out in public. The children have been more public in recent years, appearing at a star-studded memorial service and other events honoring their father.
Paris, 15, had also been expected to testify during the case but was hospitalized last month and her status as a witness remained unclear. Attorneys for AEG played a snippet of her videotaped deposition last week, and more of her testimony may be played for the jury later in the trial.
Blanket, 11, is not expected to testify.
The jury of six men and six women has learned numerous details about Jackson’s role as a father during the case. They’ve heard about a secret trip to a movie weeks before Michael Jackson’s death, a private circus he hired for Paris’ 11th birthday, and Blanket’s interest in his father’s dance rehearsals.
The trial is expected to last several more weeks.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP