LOS ANGELES (AP) — The director of Michael Jackson's ill-fated comeback concerts told a jury Wednesday that he was frightened when Jackson was shivering and seemed lost at one of his final rehearsals.
The rehearsal occurred six days before Jackson died in June 2009, Kenny Ortega testified during a lawsuit filed by Jackson's mother against the concert promoter.
"I saw a Michael that frightened me," Ortega said, calling Jackson's appearance "very, very troubling."
Jackson improved somewhat but wasn't coherent when he arrived that day, Ortega said. The singer didn't rehearse that night.
The director-choreographer also said Jackson had missed numerous rehearsals for his planned "This Is It" concerts and appeared to be under the influence of a substance on at least four occasions when he did attend the sessions.
Jackson's state was "fairly obvious" to others involved in the production, he said.
Ortega later broke down while reading an email he sent to the CEO of concert promoter AEG Live LLC describing Jackson as a "lost boy."
Katherine Jackson claims the company missed warning signs about her son's health and failed to properly investigate the doctor later convicted of involuntary manslaughter after giving him an overdose of the anesthetic propofol.
AEG denies it hired Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray. The company also says there was no way it could have known the doctor was giving Jackson propofol as a sleep aid.
Murray is in prison after being sentenced to four years behind bars for involuntary manslaughter.
Ortega told the civil jury that he sent the email describing Jackson's poor condition to AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips to suggest that the singer needed professional help.
The director said he repeatedly called Murray that night, but his only concern was for Jackson's health.
"I tried the doctor who I thought would be the most natural person" to help, Ortega said. "Then I reached out AEG, Michael's partners, to make sure they were aware of how I felt and what I saw."
Ortega said it's the only concert he's ever worked on where he's had to coordinate a rehearsal schedule with a performer's doctor and concert promoter.
Also Wednesday, a lawyer for Murray told an appellate court that Jackson's contract with AEG Live should have been admitted as evidence in his manslaughter trial.
Valerie Wass said jurors did not consider the pressures placed on Jackson by the concert promoter because they didn't see the contract. She suggested that Jackson might have self-administered the drugs propofol and lorazepam because of his concern over fulfilling the terms of his contract for 50 performances.
However, witnesses at Murray's trial testified it was the doctor who administered the overdose of the anesthetic propofol.