It’s not so much the verdict in the Jackson case — there are good reasons why a jury might legitimately have found him not guilty — but the comments of the jurors in TV interviews that have me depressed.
I begin to believe that we have entered the Era of Infinite “Second Chances”… for celebrities.
Fair disclosure: I believe, based on what I have seen, heard, and read over the past ten years, that Michael Jackson did have deliberate sexual contact with not one but several prepubescent and pubescent boys; so my reactions are all colored by this.
What I found most discouraging was listening to the juror interviews. It all seemed to boil down to this:
The jury really, really despised the mother because they didn’t like the way she interacted with them (snapping her fingers, looking funny at the jurors, squirmy on the stand). Therefore, they concluded she must be lying about every aspect of her testimony. Because the mother was lying, the jury concluded that even though they personally found the accuser believable, he must be lying as well, since what he said matched what she said. All three jurors that I heard, one of them the foreman, said this in almost as many words: if the mother was lying, then the boy must be lying. Thus, if a weasily person says X, then a believable person also says X — rather than corroborate the weasily person’s testimony, it taints the believable person’s testimony! The jurors said there was no way Jackson would have molested the boy, since he knew that people had their eye on him because of the earlier allegations in the 1990s. Lesson learned! This is the one that depressed me the most — because it’s 180° off course: it is commonplace for molesters to do it again and again and again, because it’s not a rational calculation — it’s an uncontrollable urge. This doesn’t prove Jackson did it, of course; but it’s a null argument against him doing it. However, that’s what the jury seems to have believed. Weirdest misunderstanding: all three agreed that there was something wrong and creepy about a forty-something man admitting that he likes to sleep in a bed with unrelated minor children. All three found the other alleged victims of Jackson from the earlier accusations more convincing than the current boy, hence they believed there was a pattern. But the only juror who was explicitly asked what rôle this played in the deliberations said (as close a direct quotation as I can render) “oh, we were all very troubled by those factors; but the judge instructed us to put all that out of our minds and only look at the evidence, so we did our best to ignore all that stuff.”
Arrgh! I very strongly doubt that the judge instructed any such thing. “The jury should ignore lawful evidence in this case that I have already allowed in if it might lead to a guilty verdict.”
My conclusion is that we have reached an age where no major (or perhaps even minor) celebrity can be convicted of any serious crime by a jury, no matter what the evidence. Jackson, Blake, OJ — when was the last time a jury convicted a celebrity? Everything these jurors said sounded to me like rationalizations for what they wanted to do all along: acquit Michael Jackson of all charges because he is Michael Jackson. Just as I believe the OJ jury struggled to find any hook to hang an acquittal on; the late and unlamented (at least by me) Johnny Cochran — and the on-time but equally despised Barry Scheck and Robert Shapiro — only had to toss out a few suggestions: Mark Fuhrman, racism, rush to judgment, Mark Fuhrman, faithless ex-wife, a shrunken glove that didn’t quite fit, Mark Fuhrman. And in the Robert Blake murder trial, the jury chose to disbelieve every prosecution witness, then acquitted Blake for lack of evidence.
In September, Phil Spector will doubtless be acquitted of murdering Lana Clarkson… and it won’t make any difference what the evidence shows.
We have entered the era of infinite second chances for the famous: every celebrity accused of a major crime (or convicted of a minor crime) will be given “a second chance,” no matter how many second chances he has gotten in the past. If OJ were to kill some future girlfriend under circumstances exactly like the last case, and even if there are ten witnesses and a videotape, he will be acquitted at trial. “He couldn’t have killed Melody,” the jurors will say in interviews, “because he would have known from the last time that he couldn’t get away with it!”