The Michael Jackson trial fell far short of "trial of the century." As a cultural story of the spring, "American Idol" was bigger.
Why did people find the Jackson trial so much less compelling than the O.J. trial? It's not just that the judge banned cameras in the courtroom. There are many other differences. For one thing, the charges were not new. There was no sudden, surprising event that transformed how we thought about a celebrity. There was only a decision to bring a celebrity to trial over things we've been hearing about him for years.
In the O.J. case, two persons were brutally murdered and the question was whether he did it. In the Jackson case, the question is whether a crime occurred at all, but if it did, there's no other person out there who might have done it. If it happened, Jackson did it. In the O.J. case, the reality of the dead bodies was an undeniable fact, foisted upon us. In the Jackson case, to be drawn in, we must engage with the question whether a crime occurred, and we can still turn away and think: I just don't know. It would be terrible if it were true, but I hope it's not.