Kenny Ortega, the director of Michael Jackson's planned comeback shows, broke down in tears while describing the pop star's faltering condition during the singer's ongoing wrongful death trial, the BBC reports. Just days before Jackson's death in June 2009, Ortega recalled that his appearance was "very, very troubling," adding, "I saw a Michael that frightened me."
Ortega's comments came during his third day of evidence in the current case against AEG Live, the promoter for This Is It, who are being sued by Jackson's mother for up to $40 billion. Katherine Jackson has accused the company of missing the warning signs of her son's failing health during rehearsals and not properly investigating Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after giving the singer a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol.
While AEG Live has denied any such charges, Ortega's testimony painted a picture of a Jackson who was clearly ill and improperly cared for. The director said during at least four rehearsals, Jackson appeared to be under the influence of some substance, and that his strange behavior often followed visits to the doctor.
During one rehearsal, six days before his death, Ortega remembered Jackson was cold, shivering and uncertain of his surroundings; when the rehearsal ended, Ortega emailed AEG Live's CEO, Randy Phillips, about his condition, urging them to find him proper care and describing the singer as a "lost boy."
Ortega said he had a tense meeting the the following day with Murray and Phillips, during which the doctor insisted Jackson was capable of rehearsing.
The wrongful death trial against AEG has been ongoing since April 30th and is expected to wrap up at the end of July.