Hearing told Jackson ‘already dead’ when doctor sought help

A CHOREOGRAPHER who was the last person to work with Michael Jackson on his ill-fated concert tour told a judge yesterday the superstar seemed unwell and not in condition six days before he died.

Kenny Ortega said Jackson went home early from rehearsals at his suggestion. Ortega said he was summoned the next morning to Jackson’s home and told by Dr Conrad Murray to try not to be Jackson’s doctor or psychiatrist.

Murray suggested Jackson should not have been sent home because he was physically and emotionally fine, Ortega testified.

The testimony came during a preliminary hearing to determine if Murray, the singer’s personal physician, will be tried on a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Deputy District Attorney David Walgren said in his opening statement that Jackson was already dead when Murray summoned help. He alleged the doctor tried to conceal his administering of the powerful anaesthetic propofol to the superstar, ordering a bodyguard to collect items before paramedics were called.

Ortega, who later directed the Jackson concert film “This Is It” based on rehearsal footage, said the pop star was in good spirits through most of the rehearsals.

In the days before Jackson’s death, he said, the singer told him there was nothing to worry about and gave him a big hug.

Ortega said he became concerned on June 19, 2009, when Jackson arrived at Staples Centre for rehearsal.

“He didn’t look well at all. Michael was chilled and soft-spoken. ... He wasn’t in the kind of condition to be at rehearsal,” Ortega said.

Under questioning by the prosecutor, Ortega said: “He appeared really lost. It was scary. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I said, ‘Michael, is this the best place for you to be or do you want to go home and be with your family’?

“He said, ‘Would you be OK with that?’ I said, ‘OK,’ and he left,” the witness said.

Jackson died six days later on June 25. Authorities contend Murray gave him a lethal dose of propofol and other sedatives in the bedroom of his rented mansion.

“The evidence will show through the expert testimony, by all accounts, Michael Jackson was dead in the bedroom at 100 North Carrolwood prior to the paramedics arriving,” Walgren said in his opening statement.

Murray had been giving Jackson propofol, an anaesthetic normally administered in hospital settings, six nights a week for roughly two months before his death, the prosecutor said.

Murray’s lawyer Ed Chernoff, declined to give an opening statement.

Jackson’s mother Katherine and his sister LaToya and brother Jackie attended the proceedings.

At the end of the multi-day hearing, a judge will determine whether there is enough evidence for Murray to stand trial.

The Houston cardiologist has pleaded not guilty and his lawyers have said he did not give Jackson anything that should have killed him.

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