Michael Jackson’s Ghost Testifies His Death Was an Accident

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It testified over objection, of course, but the objection was apparently overruled.

As you may recall, Jackson died in 2009 from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol, given to him by Dr. Conrad Murray. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011. Jackson's family then filed a civil suit against AEG Live, blaming it for contributing to his death through negligence in hiring the doctor and in failing to take steps to help Jackson although it allegedly knew he was not well. (Did anyone not know he was not well?) That trial has been going on in L.A. Superior Court for four weeks now, and it is a pretty good indication of how closely I have been following the proceedings that I only learned a trial was going on today, after somebody told me a ghost had testified.

So now I'm paying attention.

As the reader who sent me this item noted, the report he'd seen was in the Daily Mail, and that report quoted The Sun, so this was already triple or quadruple hearsay with at least two not-always-reliable sources in the chain. Googling the story turned up other reports—in the Weekly World News, New York Post, and so forth—so this was not looking very promising. But after some inquiries I am glad to say a source has confirmed the basic details.

Nobody is saying MJ actually showed up, so I admit saying his ghost "testified" is a bit of a stretch. But a witness did quote the ghost, and that's good enough for me.

The witness was Randy Phillips, AEG Live's CEO, who was on the stand for several days during the past two weeks. As the Los Angeles Times reported last Monday, Phillips had been "sparring" with the family's attorney, Brian Panish, and apparently was a somewhat difficult witness. The Times reported that the judge excused the jury at one point and told Phillips that he needed to try harder to "answer the questions being asked without comments" or argument, or that he might be on the stand for another week. (The Times also mentioned that Phillips "attended two years of law school," and while it could be considered a compliment that he bailed out early, the Times seemed to be insinuating that it explained why he was so argumentative.)

My understanding is that the ghost manifested during Phillips' testimony while he was trying to explain a 2009 email he sent stating (according to the Daily Mail), "I think I know what MJ died of and this would exonerate Conrad [Murray]." Previously, Phillips had said he didn't recall what that was about, but on the stand he seems to have remembered. Or came up with something, at least. He testified (according to the Sun) that "Brenda [Richie, ex-wife of Lionel] called me to tell me that she was in communications with Michael, either through a medium or directly. She said Michael told her it wasn't Dr. Murray's fault—that he had accidentally killed himself."

In other words, Phillips testified that in 2009 he had believed Murray was innocent because Lionel Richie's ex-wife told him that a medium told her that the ghost of Michael Jackson had told her that the death was an accident.

This is one case where I might have advised sticking with "I don't recall."

Panish objected that the testimony was triple hearsay, which was probably being charitable. For non-lawyers, "hearsay" is an out-of-court statement offered to prove that the stated facts are true. That is, "Michael Jackson's ghost told me it was an accident" would be inadmissible for purposes of proving the death was an accident (assuming a ghost would otherwise be competent to testify about that). "A medium told me that Michael Jackson's ghost told her it was an accident" would be double hearsay, and so on. Phillips said he wasn't sure if a medium had been involved, and if not then his testimony would in fact have been triple hearsay (ghost to Brenda to Phillips). Otherwise, quadruple.

Even single hearsay is inadmissible, which makes it a bit surprising that all the reports appear to agree that the judge overruled the objection. But that is possible and maybe even correct. There are actually lots of exceptions to the hearsay rule, in situations where there is some other reason to think the testimony would generally be credible. "I heard it from a ghost" is not one of them, but remember that it's only "hearsay" in the first place if offered to prove the stated facts are actually true. So AEG's attorney may have argued, and the judge may have reasoned, that the precise issue here was not whether the death was an accident (a question I think was settled by the criminal case anyway), but rather what the hell Phillips might have been thinking when he wrote the email. Viewed that way, the testimony is probably admissible despite the hearsay objection. It may not be credible, but that's a different issue.

The trial is expected to last another four weeks, according to one report. I doubt they will hear from any more ghosts, but I would expect to hear about this one in closing arguments.