The last days of Michael Jackson’s life were filled with the adulation of fans, a rehearsal performance onlookers described as amazing and intense preparations for his big comeback in London.
In good spirits, Jackson chatted with well-wishers outside his home and at the Staples Center where he practiced songs and dance routines before he returned home. Then, things took a tragic turn, according to Michael Amir Williams, who testified Wednesday in the trial of the doctor charged with involuntary manslaughter in the superstar’s death.
Williams, who had gone with him to the rehearsal and had dropped Jackson at home, said he got a frantic call the next day from Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray. “He said, ‘Get here right away. Mr. Jackson had a bad reaction.’ He said, ‘Get someone up here right away,’” Williams told the jury.
A security guard, Faheem Muhammad, testified that he arrived at Jackson’s bedroom to find Murray sweating and nervous, leaning over Jackson and trying to revive him. He said that Jackson’s two older children, Paris and Prince, were in shock, and that Paris fell to the ground, curled up and weeping.
Moments later, Muhammad said, he heard Murray ask if anyone knew CPR.
The testimony on the second day of the trial helped shed light on what Murray did and didn’t do after he found Jackson unconscious in June 2009. Murray, 58, has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could face up to four years in prison and would have to relinquish his medical license.
On June 24, 2009, the day before Jackson’s death, Murray was in negotiations to join Jackson on his tour as his personal physician, testified lawyer Kathy Jorrie of concert giant AEG Live. She said she was gathering information for an insurance company to make sure Jackson was in good health and could be insured.
“Dr. Murray told me repeatedly that Michael Jackson was perfectly healthy, in excellent condition. Don’t worry about it. He’s great,” she recalled.
Jorrie said Murray had added to his contract a provision for a CPR machine when they got to London for the highly touted show that would include 50 concerts over nine months. “He needed to be sure if something went wrong he would have such a machine available,” she said. “He also told me it was customary.”
Murray signed the contract, which would give him $150,000 a month, and faxed it to her that night, she said. Jackson, however, would never get to sign it.
In the late afternoon of June 24, Williams, Jackson’s personal assistant, said he arranged for a car and accompanied his boss to Staples Center for a key rehearsal. He said Jackson was in good spirits and had the car stop at the gate so he could roll down the window and chat with fans who were always camped there.
“He would make sure we stopped, stick out his hand, anything to show his fans he loved them,” he said.
Williams managed to watch Jackson on stage. “I was an employee but I was a fan first,” he said. “I would try to sneak in to watch him. I was working constantly, but I was able to see him perform a little.”
How was his performance, asked Deputy District Attorney David Walgren.
“Personally, I thought it was amazing,” Williams said. “I thought it was the best thing in the world. He had told me he didn’t go 100 percent for the rehearsal. It was about 40 percent. But I thought it was great.”
They returned to Jackson’s rented Holmby Hills mansion after that, stopping at the gate again. “He was in good spirits,” Williams said. “He wanted to stop and say, ‘Hi.’ He even had some conversation with the fans.”
Outside the house, parked in its usual spot, was Murray’s car.
Williams brought in gifts that had been given to Jackson and said good night. Williams checked out with the security staff and went home. The next day at 12:13 p.m. his cell phone rang. There was a message from Murray.
“Were you asked to call 911?” Walgren asked.
“No sir,” Williams said.
He remembered reaching Jackson security guard Alberto Alvarez. “I said, ‘I don’t know what’s going on but you have to get in the house’ … I said, ‘Run. Hurry.’”
Williams said he rushed from his downtown home and arrived just as Jackson’s body was being loaded into an ambulance. He helped to gather Jackson’s three children and put them in a car to follow the ambulance.
“What was Dr. Murray’s appearance?” Walgren asked.
“Frantic,” he said. “I knew it was serious.”
Williams said he was standing outside the emergency room area when Dr. Murray and a group of doctors emerged. “He walked out and closed the curtains,” he said softly. “He said, ‘He passed.’”
At one point, Walgren had Williams identify a photograph of Jackson’s children. The famous photo was taken at a memorial service shortly after Jackson’s death was projected on a large courtroom screen.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Ed Chernoff questioned Williams about Murray’s actions at the hospital. He said Murray asked to be taken back to Jackson’s home to collect some cream he believed Jackson would not want the public to know about. It was later found to be skin whitening cream that is used in the treatment of vitiligo, a skin condition that the singer had.
Williams said he felt police would not want anyone returning to the home and he did not take Murray there. He then said the doctor said he was hungry and asked for food.
Chernoff suggested that Williams should have known from Murray’s call that there was an emergency.
“When I hear someone had a bad reaction, I don’t think anything fatal,” he said. “He didn’t tell me to call 911.”
Under questioning from Chernoff, Muhammad revealed that Jackson had asked Williams to contact a nurse four days before his death because he was experiencing “weird symptoms.”
“One of his hands was hot and his feet were cold,” Muhammad said. He told Chernoff that he did not reveal that he had contacted the nurse, Cherilyn Lee, during interviews with police. He said he wasn’t asked about it and didn’t think it was relevant.
Chernoff has been questioning witnesses about Jackson’s interactions with other physicians, including dermatologist Arnold Klein. Muhammad said at times, Jackson visited Klein’s office almost daily. A judge has blocked Klein from testifying in the case.
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