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Jackson's mother says he denied prescription drug problem

A courtroom sketch depicting the testimony of Katherine Jackson, mother of late pop star Michael Jackson, during Katherine Jackson's neglige
A courtroom sketch depicting the testimony of Katherine Jackson, mother of late pop star Michael Jackson, during Katherine Jackson's neglige

By Dana Feldman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Jackson's mother testified on Monday in her wrongful death lawsuit against concert promoter AEG Live that the late pop star denied he was abusing prescription drugs when she confronted him in the years before his death.

Katherine Jackson, 83, said under cross-examination that she and her family had heard rumors that the singer was abusing pain medications but never saw him under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the final years of his life.

"I told him I heard that he was using prescription drugs," the Jackson family matriarch told jurors in her second day on the stand in the trial in which she and Jackson's children are suing AEG Live over the singer's death.

AEG has argued that Jackson had prescription drug and addiction problems for years before entering into any agreement with the company.

The King of Pop died at age 50 in June 2009 in Los Angeles from an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol while preparing for his "This Is It" series of comeback shows in London.

The lawsuit alleges that privately held AEG Live hired Dr Conrad Murray as Jackson's personal physician. Murray was caring for the singer as he rehearsed for the shows and the doctor was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011 for administering the propofol that killed Jackson.

Katherine Jackson, dressed in a purple and white coat and a dark pink top, said she confronted her son about the rumors at his Las Vegas residence, where he lived from 2006 to 2008. She did not say exactly when she brought up her concerns.

"He didn't want me to worry," Jackson said when questioned by AEG Live attorney Marvin Putnam about whether she knew he would deny the rumors.

"He's my son," she added. "I didn't think it was that serious. When a child respects his mother and doesn't want her to think it's that bad, he'll deny it."

Putnam said he will call Jackson back to the stand and hopes to convince the jury that she and Michael's siblings knew of his addiction and hid it.

"No one had a closer relationship than she did. She did everything to ensure the world didn't know," Putnam told reporters outside court.

'NO DEEP DISCUSSION'

Katherine Jackson, who said that was the only time she confronted her son about drugs on her own, acknowledged that she knew her famous son was taking prescription medication for head and back pains but said she did not believe he was abusing them.

Jackson's mother, who grew frustrated at times with Putnam's questioning, said that she and her children together asked the singer about his rumored addictions in 2002, believing that her presence would have a stronger impact on him.

"We just saw that he was OK and he was upset," she said of the family's intervention. "So we didn't talk about it. ... There was no deep discussion."

Katherine Jackson concluded her testimony tearfully reiterating earlier statements from Friday that AEG Live failed to get her son proper medical attention or reach out to his family when he fell ill while preparing for his comeback tour.

"I wanted to hear what happened to my son," she said when asked why she initiated the lawsuit.

Jackson cried when her attorney, Brian Panish, showed a photo of the pop singer appearing gaunt and sleep-deprived shortly before his death.

AEG Live has said it did not hire or supervise Murray and could not have foreseen that Murray posed a danger to Jackson. Putnam said he does not plan to call Murray to testify but he will call "many, many, many doctors" Jackson saw over the years.

AEG Live began its defense on Monday by calling former executive John Meglen to the stand shortly before court was adjourned.

Michael's oldest son, Prince, 16, has already testified. The younger children Paris, 15, and 11-year-old Prince Michael II, also known as Blanket, were not expected to testify. Michael's nephews T.J. and Taj Jackson, sons of brother Tito Jackson, have also testified.

The trial, which started in April and was supposed to last three months, is expected to conclude in September.

(Reporting by Dana Feldman; Writing by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Mary Milliken, Eric Walsh and Eric Beech)

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