It was five years ago today that twelve jurors unanimously acquitted
Michael Jackson on various charges of child molestation, conspiracy
and providing alcohol to a minor. It is difficult to know how
history will remember the Michael Jackson trial. Perhaps as
the epitome of western celebrity obsession. Perhaps as a 21st
century lynching. Personally, I think it will be remembered
as one of the most shameful episodes in journalistic history.
It's not until you find yourself digging through newspaper archives
and re-watching hours of TV coverage that you truly understand
the magnitude of the media's failings. It was industry-wide.
No doubt, there were certain reporters and even certain publications
and TV stations that overtly favored the prosecution, but many
of the media's shortcomings were institutional. In a media obsessed
with soundbites, how to you reduce eight hours of testimony
into two sentences and remain accurate? In an era of rolling
news and instant blogging, how do you resist the temptation
to dash out of the courtroom at the earliest opportunity to
break news of the latest salacious allegations, even if it means
missing a slice of the day's testimony?
Looking back on the Michael Jackson trial, I see a media out
of control. The sheer amount of propaganda, bias, distortion
and misinformation is almost beyond comprehension. Reading the
court transcripts and comparing them to the newspaper cuttings,
the trial that was relayed to us didn't even resemble the trial
that was going on inside the courtroom. The transcripts show
an endless parade of seedy prosecution witnesses perjuring themselves
on an almost hourly basis and crumbling under cross examination.
The newspaper cuttings and the TV news clips detail day after
day of heinous accusations and lurid innuendo.
It was November 18th 2003 when 70 sheriffs swooped on Michael
Jackson's Neverland Ranch. As soon as news of the raid broke,
news channels abandoned their schedules and switched to 24 hour
coverage. When it emerged that Jackson was accused of molesting
young cancer survivor Gavin Arvizo, the boy who famously held
the singer's hand in Martin Bashir's 'Living With Michael Jackson',
the media went into overdrive. Networks were so obsessed by
the Jackson scandal that a terrorist attack in Turkey went almost
entirely unreported, with only CNN bothering to broadcast George
Bush and Tony Blair's joint press conference about the disaster.
All three major networks immediately set about producing hour-long
specials on the Jackson case, apparently undeterred by the fact
that nothing was yet known about the allegations and prosecutors
weren't answering questions. CBS dedicated an episode of 48
Hours Investigates to the arrest, while NBC's Dateline and ABC's
20/20 also rushed out Jackson specials. Within two days of the
Neverland raid, and before Jackson had even been arrested, VH1
announced a half-hour documentary called 'Michael Jackson Sex
Daily Variety described the Jackson story as "a godsend
for... media outlets, particularly cable news channels and local
stations looking to pump up Nielsen numbers in the final week
of the all-important November sweeps."
Daily Variety was right. Celebrity-oriented news shows saw figures
spike when the Jackson story hit. Viewing figures for Access
Hollywood were up 10% on the previous week. Entertainment Tonight
and Extra both achieved season best audience numbers and Celebrity
Justice also enjoyed an 8% rise.
Newspapers reacted just as hysterically as TV stations. 'Sicko!'
shrieked the New York Daily News. 'Jacko: Now Get Out Of This
One' goaded the New York Post.
The Sun - Britain's biggest newspaper - ran an article titled
'He's Bad, He's Dangerous, He's History'. The piece branded
Jackson an 'ex-black ex-superstar', a 'freak' and a 'twisted
individual' and called for his children to be taken into care.
"If he weren't a pop idol with piles of cash to hide behind,"
it said, "he would have been picked up years ago."
Encouraged by the audience boosts the Jackson scandal had produced,
media outlets made it their mission to milk the case for all
that they could. Entertainment Weekly's Tom Sinclair wrote,
"Media mavens, from the tackiest tabloid reporter to the
nattiest network news anchor, are in overdrive scrambling to
fill column inches and airtime with Jacko scoops and talking
"Pressure on news people is enormous," attorney Harland
Braun told Sinclair. "So lawyers you've never heard of
wind up on television talking about cases that they have no
Sinclair added, "And not just lawyers. Everyone from doctors,
writers, and psychiatrists to convenience-store clerks who once
waited on Jackson are weighing in on TV and in print."
While the media was busy badgering a host of quacks and distant
acquaintances for their views on the scandal, the team of prosecutors
behind the latest Jackson case was engaging in some highly questionable
behavior - but the media didn't seem to care.
During the Neverland raid District Attorney Tom Sneddon - the
prosecutor who unsuccessfully pursued Jackson in 1993 - and
his officers breached the terms of their own search warrant
by entering Jackson's office and seizing hoards of irrelevant
business papers. They also illegally raided the office of a
PI working for Jackson's defense team and lifted defense documents
from the home of the singer's personal assistant.
Sneddon also appeared to be tampering with fundamental elements
of his case whenever evidence came to light which undermined
the Arvizo family's claims. For instance, when the DA found
out about two taped interviews in which the entire Arvizo family
sang Jackson's praises and denied any abuse, he introduced a
conspiracy charge and claimed they'd been forced to lie against
In a similar instance, Jackson's lawyer Mark Geragos appeared
on NBC in January 2004 and announced that the singer had a 'concrete,
iron-clad alibi' for the dates on the charge sheet. By the time
Jackson was re-arraigned in April for the conspiracy charge,
the molestation dates on the rap sheet had been shifted by almost
Sneddon was later caught seemingly trying to plant fingerprint
evidence against Jackson, allowing accuser Gavin Arvizo to handle
adult magazines during the grand jury hearings, then bagging
them up and sending them away for fingerprint analysis.
Not only did the majority of the media overlook this flurry
of questionable and occasionally illegal activity on the part
of the prosecution, it also seemed perfectly content to perpetuate
damning propaganda on the prosecution's behalf, despite a complete
lack of corroborative evidence. For example, Diane Dimond appeared
on Larry King Live days after Jackson's arrest and spoke repeatedly
about a 'stack of love letters' the star had supposedly written
to Gavin Arvizo.
"Does anyone here... know of the existence of these letters?"
"Absolutely," Dimond replied. "I do. I absolutely
know of their existence!"
"Diane, have you read them?"
"No, I have not read them."
Dimond admitted that she'd never even seen the letters, let
alone read them, but said she knew about them from "high
law enforcement sources". But those love letters never
materialized. When Dimond said she 'absolutely knew' of their
existence she was basing her comments solely on the words of
police sources. At best, the police sources were parroting the
Arvizos' allegations in good faith. At worst, they'd concocted
the story themselves to sully Jackson's name. Either way, the
story went around the world with not a shred of evidence to
It was over a year between Jackson's arrest and the beginning
of his trial and the media was forced to try to pad the story
out for as long as they could in the interim. Aware that Jackson
was bound by gag order and therefore powerless to respond, prosecution
sympathizers started leaking documents such as Jordan Chandler's
1993 police statement. The media, hungry for scandal and sensationalism,
pounced on them.
At the same time, allegations sold to tabloid TV shows by disgruntled
ex-employees in the 1990s were constantly re-hashed and presented
as news. Small details of the Arvizo family's allegations would
also periodically leak.
While most media outlets reported these stories as allegations
rather than facts, the sheer amount and frequency of stories
connecting Jackson to ugly sexual abuse, coupled with his inability
to refute them, had a devastating effect on the star's public
The trial began in early 2005 with jury selection. Asked by
NBC about prosecution and defense jury selection tactics, Dimond
said the difference was that prosecutors would be looking for
jurors who had a sense of 'good versus evil' and 'right and
No sooner had the jurors been selected than Newsweek was trying
to undermine them, claiming that a middle class jury would be
unable to fairly judge a family of lower class accusers. In
an article titled 'Playing the Class Card' the magazine said,
"The Jackson trial may hinge on something other than race.
And we don't mean the evidence."
As the trial kicked into gear, it became quickly apparent that
the case was full of holes. The prosecution's only 'evidence'
was a stack of heterosexual porn magazines and a couple of legal
art books. Thomas Mesereau wrote in a court motion, "The
effort to try Mr. Jackson for having one of the largest private
libraries in the world is alarming. Not since the dark day of
almost three quarters of a century ago has anyone witnessed
a prosecution which claimed that the possession of books by
well known artists were evidence of a crime against the state."
Gavin Arvizo's brother, Star, took the stand early in the trial
and claimed to have witnessed two specific acts of molestation
but his testimony was completely inconsistent. Regarding one
alleged act, he claimed in court that Jackson had been fondling
Gavin, but in a previous description of the same incident he
told a wildly different story, claiming Jackson had been rubbing
his penis against Gavin's buttocks. He also told two different
stories about the other alleged act on two consecutive days
During cross examination Jackson's lawyer, Thomas Mesereau,
showed the boy a copy of Barely Legal and repeatedly asked if
it was the specific edition Jackson had shown him and his brother.
The boy insisted that it was, only for Mesereau to reveal that
it was published in August 2003; five months after the Arvizo
family had left Neverland.
But this information went almost entirely unreported, the media
focusing on the boy's allegations rather than the cross examination
which undermined them. Allegations make good soundbites. Complex
cross examination does not.
When Gavin Arvizo took the stand, he claimed that Jackson had
instigated the first act of molestation by telling him that
all boys had to masturbate or else they would turn into rapists.
But Mesereau showed under cross examination that the boy had
previously admitted his grandmother made that comment, not Jackson,
meaning that the whole molestation story was predicated on a
Under cross examination the boy severely undermined the prosecution's
conspiracy charge by claiming he'd never felt afraid at Neverland
and he'd never wanted to leave. His accounts of the alleged
molestation also differed from his brother's.
Unfortunately for Jackson, Gavin Arvizo's cross examination
was all but ignored as newspapers giggled and gossiped about
what became known as 'pajama day'. On the first day of the boy's
direct examination Jackson slipped in his shower, bruised his
lung and was rushed to hospital. When Judge Rodney Melville
ordered a bench warrant for Jackson's arrest unless he arrived
within an hour, the singer sped to the courthouse in the pajama
trousers he'd been wearing when he was rushed to hospital.
The photographs of Jackson in his pajamas went all over the
word, often with no mention of Jackson's injury or the reason
he was wearing them. Many journalists accused Jackson of faking
the entire event in order to gain sympathy, although sympathetic
is the last word you'd use to describe the media's reaction.
The incident didn't stop the media from sending Gavin Arvizo's
lurid allegations around the world the following day. Some outlets
even ran the boy's testimony as fact rather than conjecture.
"He Said If Boys Don't Do It They Might Turn Into Rapists
- Cancer Boy Gavin Tells Court of Jacko Sex," wrote The
But the boy's cross examination was another story. It went almost
completely unreported. Instead of stories about Gavin Arvizo's
lies and the two brothers' contradictory allegations, newspaper
pages were filled with snarky opinion pieces about Jackson's
pajamas, even though 'pajama day' had been days previously.
Thousands of words were dedicated to whether or not Jackson
wore a wig and the Sun even ran an article attacking Jackson
for the accessories he pinned to his waistcoats every day. It
seemed like the press would write anything to avoid discussing
the boy's cross examination, which severely undermined the prosecution's
This habit of reporting lurid allegations but ignoring the cross
examination which discredited them became a distinct trend throughout
Jackson's trial. In an April 2005 interview with Matt Drudge,
Fox columnist Roger Friedman explained, "What's not reported
is that the cross examination of these witnesses is usually
fatal to them." He added that whenever anybody said anything
salacious or dramatic about Jackson, the media 'went running
outside to report on it' and missed the subsequent cross examination.
Drudge agreed, adding, "You're not hearing how witness
after witness is disintegrating on the stand. There is not one
witness, at least lately, that hasn't admitted to perjuring
themselves in previous proceedings either in this case or in
some other case."
This alarming trend of ignoring cross examination was perhaps
most apparent in the media's coverage of Kiki Fournier's testimony.
Under direct examination by the prosecution, Fournier - a Neverland
housekeeper - testified that when at Neverland children often
became unruly and she had sometimes seen children so hyperactive
that they could, feasibly, have been intoxicated. The media
scurried outside to report this apparent bombshell and missed
one of the most significant pieces of testimony in the entire
Under cross examination by Thomas Mesereau, Fournier said that
during the Arvizo family's final weeks at Neverland - the period
during which the molestation supposedly happened - the two boys'
guest room had been constantly messy, leading her to believe
they'd been sleeping in their own quarters all along - not Michael
She also testified that Star Arvizo had once pulled a knife
on her in the kitchen, explaining that she did not feel it had
been intended as a joke and that she thought he'd been 'trying
to assert some sort of authority'.
In a devastating blow to the prosecution's increasingly hilarious
conspiracy charge, Fournier laughed at the idea that anybody
could be held prisoner at Neverland Ranch, telling the jurors
that there was no high fence around the property and the family
could have walked out at any time 'with ease'.
When Gavin and Star's mother Janet Arvizo took the stand Tom
Sneddon was seen with his head in his hands. She claimed that
a videotape of herself and her children praising Jackson had
been scripted word for word by a German man who barely spoke
English. In outtakes she was seen singing Jackson's praises
then looking embarrassed and asking if she was being recorded.
She said that had been scripted too.
She claimed she'd been held hostage at Neverland even though
log books and receipts showed that she'd left the ranch and
returned on three occasions during the period of 'captivity'.
It became apparent that she was currently under investigation
for welfare fraud and had also been falsely obtaining money
on the back of her son's illness, holding benefits to pay for
his cancer treatment when he was already covered by insurance.
Even the most ardent prosecution supporters had to admit that
Janet Arvizo was a disastrous witness for the state. Except
Diane Dimond, who in March 2005 seemed to use Janet Arvizo's
welfare fraud (she was convicted in the wake of Jackson's trial)
as roundabout proof of Jackson's guilt, signing off a New York
Post article with the gob smacking line, "Pedophiles don't
target kids with Ozzie and Harriet parents."
Watching their case crumble before their eyes, the prosecution
applied to the judge for permission to admit evidence of 'prior
bad acts'. Permission was granted. Prosecutors told the jury
they would hear evidence of five former victims. But those five
prior cases turned out to be even more laughable than the Arvizos'
A parade of disgruntled security guards and housekeepers took
the stand to testify that they had witnessed molestation, much
of it carried out on three boys; Wade Robson, Brett Barnes and
Macauley Culkin. But those three boys were the defense's first
three witnesses, each of them testifying that Jackson had never
touched them and they resented the implication.
Moreover, it was revealed that each of these former employees
had been fired by Jackson for stealing from his property or
had lost a wrongful termination suit and wound up owing Jackson
huge amounts of money. They'd also neglected to tell the police
when they supposedly witnessed this molestation, even when questioned
in connection with Jordy Chandler's 1993 allegations, but subsequently
tried to sell stories to the press - sometimes successfully.
The more money on the table, the more salacious the allegations
Roger Friedman complained in an interview with Matt Drudge that
the media was ignoring the cross examination of the 'prior bad
acts' witnesses, resulting in skewed reporting. He said, "When
Thursday started, that first hour was with this guy Ralph Chacon
who had worked at the Ranch as a security guard. He told the
most outrageous story. It was so graphic. And of course everybody
went running outside to report on it. But there were ten minutes
right before the first break on Thursday when Tom Mesereau got
up and cross examined this guy and obliterated him."
The fourth 'victim', Jason Francia, took the stand and claimed
that when he was a child, Jackson had molested him on three
separate occasions. Pushed for details of the 'molestation',
he said Jackson had tickled him three times outside his clothes
and he'd needed years of therapy to get over it. The jury was
seen rolling their eyes but reporters including Dan Abrams heralded
him as 'compelling', predicting that he could be the witness
who put Jackson behind bars.
The media repeatedly claimed that Francia's allegations had
been made in 1990, leading audiences to believe that the Jordy
Chandler allegations were predated. In actuality, although Jason
Francia claimed that the acts of molestation occurred in 1990,
he didn't report them until after the media storm over Chandler's
claims, at which point his mother, Neverland maid Blanca Francia,
promptly extracted $20,000 from Hard Copy for an interview with
Diane Dimond and another $2.4million in a settlement from Jackson.
Moreover, transcripts from police interviews showed that the
Francia had repeatedly changed his story and had originally
insisted that he'd never been molested. Transcripts also showed
that he only said he was molested after police officers repeatedly
overstepped the mark during interviews. Officers repeatedly
referred to Jackson as a 'molester'. On one occasion they told
the boy that Jackson was molesting Macauley Culkin as they spoke,
claiming that the only way they could rescue Culkin was if Francia
told them he'd been sexually abused by the star. Transcripts
also showed that Francia had previously said of the police,
"They made me come up with stuff. They kept pushing. I
wanted to hit them in the head."
The fifth 'victim' was Jordy Chandler, who fled the country
rather than testify against his former friend. Thomas Mesereau
said in a Harvard lecture later that year, "The prosecutors
tried to get him to show up and he wouldn't. If he had, I had
witnesses who were going to come in and say he told them it
never happened and that he would never talk to his parents again
for what they made him say. It turned out he'd gone into court
and got legal emancipation from his parents."
June Chandler, Jordy's mother, testified that she hadn't spoken
to her son in 11 years. Questioned about the 1993 case, she
seemed to suffer from a severe case of selective memory. At
one point she claimed she couldn't remember being sued by Michael
Jackson and at another she said she'd never heard of her own
attorney. She also never witnessed any molestation.
When the prosecution rested, the media seemed to lose interest
in the trial. The defense case was given comparatively little
newspaper space and air time. The Hollywood Reporter, which
had been diligently reporting on the Jackson trial, missed out
two whole weeks of the defense case. The attitude seemed to
be that unless the testimony was graphic and salacious - unless
it made a good soundbite - it wasn't worth reporting.
The defense called numerous fantastic witnesses; boys and girls
who had stayed with Jackson time and again and never witnessed
any inappropriate behavior, employees who had witnessed the
Arvizo boys helping themselves to alcohol in Jackson's absence
and celebrities who had also been targeted for handouts by the
accuser. But little of this testimony was relayed to the public.
When DA Tom Sneddon referred to black comic Chris Tucker as
'boy' during his cross examination, the media didn't bat an
When both sides rested jurors were told that if they found reasonable
doubt, they had to acquit. Anybody who had been paying attention
to proceedings could see that the doubt was so far beyond reasonable
it wasn't even funny. Almost every single prosecution witness
either perjured themselves or wound up helping the defense.
There wasn't a shred of evidence connecting Jackson to any crime
and there wasn't a single credible witness connecting him to
a crime either.
But that didn't stop journalists and pundits from predicting
guilty verdicts, CNN's Nancy Grace leading the way. Defense
attorney Robert Shapiro, who had once represented the Chandler
family, stated with certainty on CNN, "He's going to be
convicted." Ex-prosecutor Wendy Murphy told Fox News, "There
is no question we will see convictions here."
The hysteria of the fans outside the courthouse was mirrored
by that of the reporters who secured seats inside, who were
so excitable that Judge Rodney Melville ordered them to 'restrain
themselves'. Thomas Mesereau commented retrospectively that
the media had been "almost salivating about having [Jackson]
hauled off to jail."
When the jury delivered 14 'not guilty' verdicts, the media
was 'humiliated', Mesereau said in a subsequent interview. Media
analyst Tim Rutten later commented, "So what happened when
Jackson was acquitted on all counts? Red faces? Second thoughts?
A little soul-searching, perhaps? Maybe one expression of regret
for the rush to judgment? Naaawww. The reaction, instead, was
rage liberally laced with contempt and the odd puzzled expression.
Its targets were the jurors... Hell hath no fury like a cable
anchor held up for scorn."
In a post-verdict news conference Sneddon continued to refer
to Gavin Arvizo as a 'victim' and said he suspected that the
'celebrity factor' had impeded the jury's judgment - a line
many media pundits swiftly appropriated as they set about undermining
the jurors and their verdicts.
Within minutes of the announcement, Nancy Grace appeared on
CourtTV to allege that jurors had been seduced by Jackson's
fame and bizarrely claim that the prosecution's only weak link
had been Janet Arvizo.
"I'm having a crow sandwich right now," she said.
"It doesn't taste very good. But you know what? I'm also
not surprised. I thought that celebrity is such a big factor.
When you think you know somebody, when you have watched their
concerts, listened to their records, read the lyrics, believed
they were coming from somebody's heart... Jackson is very charismatic,
although he never took the stand. That has an effect on this
"I'm not gonna throw a stone at the mom, although I think
she was the weak link in the state's case, but the reality is
I'm not surprised. I thought that the jury would vote in favor
of the similar transaction witnesses. Apparently the defense
overwhelmed them with the cross-examining of the mother. I think
it boils down to that, plain and simple."
Grace later stated that Jackson was 'not guilty by reason of
celebrity' and was seen attempting to hound jury foreman Paul
Rodriguez into saying he believed Jackson had molested children.
One of Grace's guests, psychoanalyst Bethany Marshall, leveled
personal attacks towards one female juror, saying, "This
is a woman who has no life."
Over on Fox News, Wendy Murphy branded Jackson 'the Teflon molester'
and said that the jurors needed IQ tests. She later added, "I
really think it's the celebrity factor, not the evidence. I
don't think the jurors even understand how influenced they were
by who Michael Jackson is... They basically put targets on the
backs of all, especially highly vulnerable, kids that will now
come into Michael Jackson's life."
Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin told CNN that he thought the 'prior
bad acts' testimony had been 'effective evidence', even though
various boys at the heart of that testimony had taken the stand
as defense witnesses and denied ever being molested. He also
claimed that the defense had won because "they could tell
a story, and juries, you know, always understand stories rather
than sort of individual facts."
Only Robert Shapiro was dignified in the face of the verdicts,
telling viewers that they should accept the jurors' decision
because the jurors were from "a very conservative part
of California and if they had no doubt, none of us should have
The following day on Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer upheld
the notion that the verdict had been influenced by Jackson's
celebrity status. "Are you sure?" she pleaded. "Are
you sure that this gigantically renowned guy walking into the
room had no influence at all?"
The Washington Post commented, "An acquittal doesn't clear
his name, it only muddies the water." Both the New York
Post and the New York Daily News ran with the snide headline
'Boy, Oh, Boy!'
In her final New York Post article about the trial, Diane Dimond
bemoaned the not guilty verdict, saying that it left Michael
Jackson untouchable. She wrote, "He walked out of court
a free man, not guilty on all counts. But Michael Jackson is
so much more than free. He now has carte blanche to live his
life any way he wants, with whomever he wants, because who would
ever try to prosecute Michael Jackson now?"
In Britain's Sun newspaper, celebrity rent-a-gob and talking
head extraordinaire Jane Moore penned an article titled 'If
the jury agree Janet Arvizo is a bad mum (and she IS)... How
did they let Jackson off?' It began: "Michael Jackson is
innocent. Justice has been done. Or so the loony tunes gathered
outside the courthouse would have us believe." She went
on to question the jurors' mental capacity and dismiss the American
legal system as 'half-baked'. "Nothing and no one truly
emerges as a winner from this sorry mess," she finished,
"least of all what they laughably call American 'justice'."
Sun contributor Ally Ross dismissed Jackson's fans as 'sad,
solitary dick-wits'. Another Sun article, penned by daytime
TV presenter Lorraine Kelly, titled 'Don't forget the kids still
at risk... Jacko's own', overtly labeled Jackson a guilty man.
Kelly - who never attended Jackson's trial - bemoaned the fact
that Jackson 'got away with it', complaining that "instead
of languishing in jail, Jackson is now back home in Neverland."
Jackson, she concluded, was "a sad, sick loser who uses
his fame and money to dazzle the parents of children he takes
a shine to."
After the initial outrage, the Michael Jackson story slipped
out of the headlines. There was little analysis of the not guilty
verdicts and how they were reached. An acquittal was considered
less profitable than a conviction.
Indeed, Thomas Mesereau said in later years that if Jackson
had been convicted it would have created a 'cottage industry'
for the media, generating a story a day for years to come. Long-running
sagas like custody of Jackson's children, control of his financial
empire, other 'victims' filing civil suits and the long-winded
appeals process would have generated thousands of stories each
for months, years, perhaps even decades.
Jackson's imprisonment would have created a never ending supply
of gratuitous headlines; Who is visiting? Who isn't? Is he in
solitary confinement? If not, who are his cellmates? What about
his prison wardens? Does he have a prison pen-pal girlfriend?
Can we fly a helicopter over the prison yard and film him exercising?
The possibilities were endless. A bidding war was raging over
who would get the first leaked images of Jackson in his cell
before the jury even began its deliberations.
A not guilty verdict was not quite so lucrative. In an interview
with Newsweek, CNN boss Jonathan Klein recalled watching the
not guilty verdicts come in and then telling his deputies, "We
have a less interesting story now." The Hollywood Reporter
noted that hastily assembled TV specials about Jackson's acquittal
performed badly and were beaten in the ratings by a re-run of
The story was over. There were no apologies and no retractions.
There was no scrutiny - no inquiries or investigations. Nobody
was held to account for what was done to Michael Jackson. The
media was content to let people go on believing their heavily
skewed and borderline fictitious account of the trial. That
When Michael Jackson died the media went into overdrive again.
What drugs had killed him? How long had he been using them?
Who had prescribed them? What else was in his system? How much
did he weigh?
But there was one question nobody seemed to want to ask: Why?
Why was Michael Jackson so stressed and so paranoid that he
couldn't even get a decent night's sleep unless somebody stuck
a tube full of anesthetic into his arm? I think the answer can
be found in the results of various polls conducted in the wake
of Michael Jackson's trial.
A poll conducted by Gallup in the hours after the verdict showed
that 54% of White Americans and 48% of the overall population
disagreed with the jury's decision of 'not guilty'. The poll
also found that 62% of people felt Jackson's celebrity status
was instrumental in the verdicts. 34% said they were 'saddened'
by the verdict and 24% said they were 'outraged'. In a Fox News
poll 37% of voters said the verdict was 'wrong' while an additional
25% said 'celebrities buy justice'. A poll by People Weekly
found that a staggering 88% of readers disagreed with the jury's
The media did a number on its audience and it did a number on
Jackson. After battling his way through an exhausting and horrifying
trial, riddled with hideous accusations and character assassinations,
Michael Jackson should have felt vindicated when the jury delivered
14 unanimous not guilty verdicts. But the media's irresponsible
coverage of the trial made it impossible for Jackson to ever
feel truly vindicated. The legal system may have declared him
innocent but the public, on the whole, still thought otherwise.
Allegations which were disproven in court went unchallenged
in the press. Shaky testimony was presented as fact. The defense's
case was all but ignored.
When asked about those who doubted the verdicts, the jury replied,
"They didn't see what we saw."
They're right. We didn't. But we should have done. And those
who refused to tell us remain in their jobs unchecked, unpunished
and free to do exactly the same thing to anybody they desire.
Now that's what I call injustice.