June 6, 2013

The one piece of paper that Paris Jackson could really use, and probably won’t get

As Paris Jackson continues to recover from her suicide attempt earlier this week, the inevitable armchair guesswork continues. What would spur her to take such a dark and drastic step? The loss of a father is an obvious blow to any child, and mourning in a white-hot spotlight can’t help, especially when you’re 15.

If we're going to speculate about stressors in Paris's life—and we are—we shouldn't overlook that ongoing wrongful death trial. In 2010, Jackson matriarch Katherine sued concert promoter AEG, insisting the company was negligent in hiring the doctor responsible for Michael's Propofol overdose. Paris and her two brothers are named as co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

As part of its defense strategy, AEG subpoenaed Paris, and about two months ago, she submitted a deposition. Ever since then, the media have speculated that she would appear during the trial.

Through it all, the Jackson family has insisted—laughably—that it's doing its utter best to protect Paris and her two brothers.

“The Jackson family and the Jackson lawyers are putting no pressure on Paris regarding this case at all,” Jackson attorney Kevin Boyle told reporters earlier this week. “It is AEG who is putting this case at Paris’s back door.”

Right, right. Because Katherine absolutely had to name a distraught child in one of the highest-profile cases on the planet, ensuring that Paris's name would appear in subsequent news coverage for years to come. 

And of course the poor old lady had no choice but to put Paris on her plaintiff witness list as well.

Still, even after all this unnecessary trauma, there is one thing that Katherine could be doing, right now, to actually get this case away from Paris's back door. If she really wants to.

“If Paris came to me, I would give her a letter saying that she was not able to testify because it would be detrimental to her mental health to compel her to testify.”

That’s Dr. Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist who serves as an expert witness in family trials. (Lieberman has inserted herself in the Jackson story in the past. She filed a 2003 complaint with Santa Barbara County Child Protective Services, insisting that the authorities investigate Jackson’s fitness as a father. This was after Jackson dangled a baby off of a balcony. The pop star kept custody of his kids.)

Lieberman says it’s pretty common for doctors to submit letters when the mental heath of a subpoenaed witness is at stake. And those letters tend to work, at least, in clear-cut cases such as this, with an attempted suicide of a minor now on the record.

The only question is, will anyone in the Jackson compound bother taking this simple kind of step? The surviving Jackson adults reportedly have been at each other’s throats off and on for years, driven in part, by intense interest in Michael’s cash.

“For the Jackson family,” Lieberman tells me, “it’s all about money. Did Katherine really think that putting those kids through the AEG trial might not be a good idea? Apparently not.”

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