Kenny Ortega, the director of Michael Jackson’s planned comeback shows, has broken down in tears while giving evidence at the megastar’s wrongful death trial.
Kenny Ortega said Michael Jackson’s appearance was “very, very troubling” at a rehearsal, days before his death in June 2009.
“I saw a Michael that frightened me,” Kenny Ortega told the jury.
The director was giving evidence for a third day in the case against live event promoter AEG Live.
AEG Live is being sued by Michael Jackson’s mother for $40 billion over his death.
Katherine Jackson claims the company failed to properly investigate Michael’s personal doctor, Conrad Murray, and missed warning signs about his failing health as he prepared for his This Is It tour.
Conrad Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after giving Michael Jackson a lethal dose of the anaesthetic propofol in 2009.
The company has denied any wrongdoing.
Kenny Ortega told the jury on Wednesday that, based on Michael Jackson’s condition, he didn’t believe the This Is It concerts could go forward.
The director said Michael Jackson appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance during at least four rehearsals.
Kenny Ortega said he was under the impression Michael Jackson’s strange behavior followed visits to his doctor.
Michael Jackson’s state was “fairly obvious” to others involved in the production, he added.
The singer also missed several scheduled rehearsals, said Kenny Ortega, adding that during a session six days before his death, he was cold, shivering and seemed lost.
Kenny Ortega, 63, told the court that Michael Jackson improved somewhat as the night went on but wasn’t coherent when he arrived that day. The singer didn’t rehearse that night.
Reading an email he sent to the CEO of concert promoter AEG Live hours after the rehearsal, Kenny Ortega shed tears as he described Michael Jackson as a “lost boy”.
Kenny Ortega said he sent the email to alert AEG officials about Michael Jackson’s condition and trusted them to get the singer appropriate care.
He said he repeatedly called Conrad Murray that night, “the doctor who I thought would be the most natural person” to help.
“Then I reached out to AEG, Michael’s partners, to make sure they were aware of how I felt and what I saw,” he added.
Kenny Ortega outlined a tense meeting with Conrad Murray the following day, during which Murray assured him and AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips that Michael Jackson was capable of rehearsing.
AEG has denied it hired Conrad Murray and said there was no way it could have known the doctor was giving Michael Jackson propofol as a sleep aid.
Kenny Ortega – who directed the High School musical trilogy – is the highest-ranking tour worker to give evidence at the trial and had the most direct contact with AEG executives and Michael Jackson.
The trial, currently in its 11th week, is expected to last until the end of July.