An associate choreographer who worked on Michael Jackson's planned comeback concerts testified Monday that she didn't see any signs that the pop superstar was ill or might die in the final days of his life.
"I just never in a million years thought he would leave us, or pass away," Stacy Walker told jurors hearing a lawsuit filed by Jackson's mother against concert promoter AEG Live LLC. "It just never crossed my mind."
Walker, who is testifying for AEG, said Jackson appeared thinner than he had been in previous years and wore multiple layers of clothes while rehearing for his "This Is It" shows planned for London's O2 arena. She said despite Jackson missing multiple rehearsals, she was convinced based on his performances the last two days of his life that he was ready for the series of shows.
Her testimony was supported by Travis Payne, an associate director on the "This Is It" concerts. Payne, who rehearsed one-on-one with Jackson and helped craft the creative vision for the show, said he never saw signs that Jackson was ill or impaired in early preparations.
"I thought he was thinner than he was in the past, but I didn't have any reason to be alarmed," Payne said.
He briefly discussed Jackson missing rehearsals, but has not yet addressed Jackson's appearance in his final days. Payne resumes testifying Tuesday.
Walker said she attributed Jackson's multilayered wardrobe to a personal preference. She said she recalled one incident in which Jackson may have appeared groggy or drugged, but she said she couldn't remember whether she witnessed or heard about it from others on the show.
Walker was the first witness called by AEG in a trial filed by Jackson's mother, Katherine, against the concert promoter. Her suit claims AEG didn't properly investigate the doctor convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's death and that its executives missed signs that the singer was unprepared for the comeback shows.
AEG denies all wrongdoing, and contends Jackson hid his struggles with prescription drug addiction. Jackson died in June 2009 from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol, which he had been using as a sleep aid.
Previous witnesses have testified that Jackson was shivering, had to be fed by others and appeared unprepared while preparing for the "This Is It" shows.
Walker said she never saw any of that behavior, although she acknowledged that her job was to work with other dancers and not Jackson directly.
"I wasn't looking for things at the time," she said. "I wish I was."
Payne, however, worked with Jackson individually almost every day for the last three months of the singer's life. He ate lunches with Jackson, saying the star's appetite varied daily. The "Thriller" singer was able to perform many of his familiar dance moves, although they had to be modified because the singer was 50 years old and not as limber as he had been decades earlier.
He said Jackson was tired for some of the sessions and that "some days would be better than others."
A medical examiner who conducted Jackson's autopsy testified Tuesday that Jackson was not underweight when he died and appeared to be in excellent health.
Despite testimony from some witnesses that Jackson appeared emaciated, Dr. Christopher Rogers said the singer did not bear the signs of someone who was starving when he died.
Walker and Payne, who have worked with Jackson since the 1990s, were called Monday because they are slated to leave the country for work. The trial is expected to last several more weeks.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP