Michael Jackson’s trial

If Jackson were not a celebrity, would a case this feeble have even reached the courts?

Dateline 20 May 2005

The trial of Michael Jackson is undoubtedly the biggest judicial media event ever. OJ’s trial does not really compare, as Jackson is global celebrity, whereas most people outside the US had never heard of Simpson until his trial. Given the shallowness of Jackson’s fame, it would be great to think that the upcoming trial for crimes against humanity of Saddam Hussein will prove as popular with the media. But it seems unlikely. Slobodan Milosevic is on trial now, and there are TV cameras in the courtroom, but the coverage is minuscule when compared to Jackson.

Which leads me to an important question. If Jackson were not a celebrity, would this trial even be taking place? That the prosecution’s case does not amount to proof beyond reasonable doubt seems so obvious as to hardly need saying. But does it even amount to a case to answer?

Let us recap.

There is no doubt that Jackson is a very odd man. He has a kid’s playground in his back yard and he allows young boys to share his bed. He even talks openly about this on TV, which anyone with half a brain should have realised was stupid, whether his motives are innocent or not. He has been accused of child molestation before.

But everything that makes him seem odd, and makes every sensible person suspicious, also makes him the perfect patsy for a scam. Combined, of course, with the fact that he is spectacularly wealthy.

So let us dismiss the fact that he is odd, and concentrate on the evidence. The accuser’s family seemed, at first, to be articulate and credible. But now look seedy and money-grubbing. The brother, in particular, was a potent witness. Up to the moment he admitted previous perjury: as part of an attempt to swindle millions from a major corporation through a bogus lawsuit. The tale of the boy who cried ‘wolf’ springs to mind. It is possible he is telling the truth, but it is at least equally likely that he is lying again.

The mother was an even less credible witness. That she has lied in court before is beyond doubt. She has two contradictory tales to tell about Jackson, and at least one of them is a lie. That she describes her perjury as “acting” rather than lying leaves unbiased observers wondering if she knows the difference between reality and her fantasies.

Jackson’s wife was supposed to be the killer witness, but it was the prosecution’s case she ravaged, not that of the defence.

Disgruntled ex-employees trundled onto the stand. Not only, they declared, had they seen one celebrity (Jackson) in compromising situations, but also another – Macaulay Culkin. The dollar signs on the tales they will sell to the media begin to flash. And now, of course, Culkin has denied the whole thing.

I know that some victims of abuse defend their abusers. Some feel embarrassed and deny the episodes ever occurred. The fact that the Arvisos are lying swindlers does not mean that Jackson is innocent.

But in American law there is a presumption of innocence. You need high quality evidence even for a trial, let alone a conviction. This evidence does not come close.

Copyright © 20 May 2005

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