Well, it sure was a heck of a surprise ending. Who would have guessed that The Gloved One would have ended up as The Loved One by that expressionless Santa Maria jury of eight women and four men?
Many of those who were following the case, even in a desultory manner, assumed that Jackson probably could not beat it on every one of the ten counts. But most really didn’t care because this latest version of “the trial of the century” had been such a bore.
Even though 2,200 members of the international media had credentials for the trial–more than for the O. J. Simpson and Scott Petersen trials combined–the only ones who seemed really interested were the pro and con hyper-thyroid cable news commentators. And the Japanese. Japan is considering using a jury system. One Japanese reporter told USA Today while the jury was deliberating, “People in Japan…want to see if jurors can be fair.” As it turns out, more than fair, one might say.
In contrast to the pro-Michael, anti-Michael cable brawls, the network news until the end had largely ignored the trial. News analyst Andrew Tyndall who tracks such things has reported that the three evening newscasts devoted 43 minutes a week to the Simpson case over 37 weeks, while they aired a total of only 39 minutes for the entire 14 weeks of testimony during the Jackson trial. .
I think that’s because until Monday afternoon’s verdict there had been almost no surprises. For example, the fact that an apparently zonked out Michael was weird enough to arrive at the courthouse in pajamas surely didn’t surprise anyone. Besides the networks now have reality shows on back-to-back featuring their own newly minted weird people. Possibly, they didn’t need competition from a real pro.
Nor was Jackson’s young accuser’s tale of molestation a surprise. We had all heard it before, a couple of times. And that his former wife Debbie Rowe testified for Michael instead of against him. Would that surprise anyone who knows which side of the bread hers is buttered on? Even the realization that Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon was being seriously outclassed by high-priced defense attorney Tom Mesereau came as no surprise to anyone who has watched past celebrity trials. Jay Leno was right when he wondered how Martha Stewart must feel being the only celeb in recent memory with a whopping legal bill who did not walk.
But why did the jury hand down the verdict that they did? They claim the “evidence didn’t add up.” And Juror No. 8 even declared that Jackson’s superstar status didn’t make a difference. “Even though he’s a superstar, he’s a human. Watching him throughout this trial, he’s a normal person…It made him real in my eyes.” No doubt Jury No. 8 has clocked lots of time watching reality TV.
In truth, Michael was supposed to be judged by a jury of his peers and that was simply not possible. There is nobody, fortunately, quite like him. But the person that the jury did recognize, relate to, and intensely dislike was the accuser’s scamming finger-wagging mom.
The jury heard that after shoplifting she lied about being beaten and groped at JC Penney to wring a six-figure settlement out of the store. They heard that she then hid the settlement to collect welfare checks. But most of all, they blamed her, and with reason, for allowing her son to stay at Neverland, to sleep in a bed with Jackson, while she was treated to a complementary leg wax.
“I’m a very protective mother,” another of the juror members said, making it clear that Tom Mercereau had succeeded in a legal sleight-of-hand making the accuser’s mother the defendant in the case. Verdict: She’s ba-a-ad, she’s ba-a-d, and Michael, pale and perspiring, moonwalked away.
Quandry for the jury: When a couple of the mom-jurors were asked on TV would they take their kids to Neverland, they said , after some hesitation, that they would–I guess they realized they couldn’t say no. Even though they obviously thought the accuser’s mother was wrong to let her son stay with Michael. “Well, I would go with him” the juror-mom said. Maybe the biggest surprise of all was to find a jury of twelve people with such a total lack of logic.
Since the verdict, the media has been in overdrive, telling tales, once again, on itself. The New York Post and the New York Daily News had the same headline–and that was worth a headline. Since Monday, Geraldo Rivera of Fox, who supported Jackson, has been preening like a peacock while Jackson-critic Nancy Grace of Court TV has been having a meltdown 24/7. And it isn’t pretty.
Now the race is on, for the first interview of Michael as soon as he wakes up. Suddenly, he is ready for network primetime once again. I am sure Oprah is on alert, Katie is calling, Diane is dialing, and Barbara must be off to the coast with an appropriate tasteful little gift. My guess: a first edition of Peter Pan.
–Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness–and Liberalism–to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.