Michael Jackson's 16-year-old son's bloodshot eyes welled up with tears Wednesday when he told a Los Angeles jury that when his father died in a hospital emergency room four years ago, the singer's personal physician simply turned to Jackson's three children and said, "Sorry, kids, Dad's dead."
Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., known as Prince, was the first member of the Jackson family to take the stand in the Los Angeles Superior Court wrongful death and negligence suit that his grandmother filed against concert promoter AEG Live. At the time of his death, Jackson, 50, was in the middle of rehearsals for his "This is It" comeback tour in London. The lawsuit alleges that AEG was responsible for hiring Dr. Conrad Murray, who was convicted in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's death, as Jackson's doctor.
Jackson's eldest son remained composed as he spoke of the special relationship he and his siblings had with their father and described in detail the confusing days before the King of Pop died, and the impact of his death on the lives of his children.
"It will never be the same," said the teen who lives with his grandmother, a cousin, and siblings in Calabasas, Calif. He talked about how challenging life has been for his 15-year-old sister, Paris, who is recovering in a Los Angeles hospital after a suicide attempt on June 5. He said his 11-year-old brother, Prince Michael Jackson, known as Blanket, "is so young he doesn't realize what he lost" and that he and Paris no longer celebrate their birthdays.
"She was hit the hardest," he said. "She was my dad's princess. She is definitely dealing with it in her own way."
In telling stories about his life, Prince made himself sound like any other teenager. He just completed his sophomore year of private high school, and is currently taking a U.S. history class in summer school. He is an honor student, has played football and basketball, and takes martial arts. He also loves to build robots and volunteers reading books to sick children.
He can't sing and he can't play an instrument, he noted, and added that his father suggested he could become an actor. But he never knew how famous his father was until he was gone.
"We always listened to his music but we didn't know he was famous," Prince said. His father made the children wear protective masks when they were out so they wouldn't be recognized.
"When I was little, the masks were annoying," he said. "It was hot and the feathers were always in my face but now that I'm older, I understand why he did it."
Prince Jackson only saw his father perform live once. He said his dad was "very excited about the concert because we would get to see him perform." But his father wished he had more time to rehearse, and after phone calls with "AEG people," usually chief executive officer Randy Phillips, "Prince said his dad would be in tears saying, 'They're gonna kill me. They're gonna kill me."
The teen recalled that while preparing for the 2009 tour, his father would sometimes come down the stairs and be "freezing cold" and "not strong enough." Jackson looked "malnourished," his son said.
On the day of his father's death, Prince Jackson testified that the family chef screamed at him that Murray wanted him upstairs. No employees, except for Murray, were allowed upstairs.
"My dad was hanging halfway off the bed and his eyes were rolling back in his head," he testified. "Murray was doing CPR. My sister was screaming the whole time saying she wants her daddy. I was waiting at the bottom of the stairs crying." When they got to the hospital, he told his sister, "Angels were watching over us," and tried to remain optimistic, but then Murray delivered the news that their father had suffered a heart attack.
The teen testified that he sometimes gave money to "Dr. Conrad" as instructed by his father because Murray would not take payments from Jackson himself and AEG would not pay him. "He didn't always take the cash and if he did, he only took a portion."
"He was supposed to make my dad healthy," he said.
Prince Jackson testified that the siblings are doing the best they can without their father, and that he missses him "a lot every day."