Singer Michael Jackson has been found not guilty of all charges at the end of his four-month child abuse trial.
He was also cleared of giving the boy, now 15, alcohol and conspiring to kidnap him and his family.
While the natural assumption would be that MJ has finally won his decade-long fight to clear his name from allegations of paedophilia, the reality is not so straight-forward. As OJ Simpson can tell you, it’s one thing to be acquitted in a court of law, it’s a completely different thing to expect the same from the court of popular opinion.
Innocent until proven guilty is the maxim used when talking about trials like this. It’s not whether MJ did or did not do all those things of which he was accused, but whether the prosecution could actually prove it. They didn’t. That’s because they did not – or could not – present the kind of evidence the jury was expecting.
I guess we’re now used to the concept of trace evidence and high-tech forensic investigation as popularised by the CSI franchise as well as shows like The New Detectives, so much so that we expect that in cases like this, there’d be some kind of ‘killer’ evidence that would immediately point the finger of guilt at MJ. That’s ‘physical evidence’, as opposed to classic TV/movie courtroom gimmicks like ‘explosive witness testimony’ or ‘dramatic cross-examination of the accused on the witness stand’.
The jury obviously didn’t put too much faith in testimonies like the one presented by the boy’s mother, who probably went a tad overboard with her theatrics. It was damning physical evidence that they were looking for, and which they did not get.
As one (anonymous) jury member in the MJ case put it:
“We expected some better evidence, something more convincing but it just wasn’t there.”
Another juror said:
“In a case like this you are waiting for a smoking gun, something you can grab onto. In this case we had trouble finding that.”
So does this mean that Michael Jackson is innocent? Well, he’s been found not guilty in a court of law, but is that the same thing as being proven innocent? The law says it is, but society tends to take different views.
After a decade of hearing tabloid-style tidbits and late-night comedy punchliners about MJ’s alleged ‘liking’ for young boys, it’s hard for people to re-adjust their mindset towards accepting MJ as he was once popular for: a global superstar. He will forever be tainted by these allegations, and if he is really, truly innocent, then his accusers, naysayers and prosecutors all have hell to pay. As it is, they might already have to pay something or other, once the Jackson legal camp decide on when to launch the inevitable lawsuits at those who’ve defamed MJ.
Which brings me to the real – and only – winners of this trial. The defence team took on a huge task – a task some claimed to be impossible – but managed to engineer a remarkable win in the end. (It IS remarkable, considering that many ‘experts’ were predicting that MJ might end up being convicted of at least one charge.)
Indeed, it’s always the lawyers who win. Always.
So if anyone ought to be congratulated at the end of this trial, it’s Mr Thomas Mesereau. Well done, dude. Lunch, Saturday? I’ll have my people call your people…
Note: I should probably mention my own stand in this. I want to believe he is innocent. Mainly because I still like his music – and I was a huge fan in my much younger days – and I’d rather listen to his songs without feeling weird or icky.