June 15, 2005

A few words about Michael.

I have a new post up over at GlennReynolds.com. It's about the end of the Michael Jackson trial. Feel free to post comments here.


Be said...

Excellent post, Ann. I'm not that interested in celebrity doings anyway, so tended to tune out. I had noticed, though, that the people who had opinions tended to very vehemently believe that he was guilty. Maybe not of the charges he was standing trial for at the time, but still guilty as sin.

Obviously, I've not got a law background, but I have sat on a jury before (aggravated assault and armed robbery). In our case, the guy standing trial was most likely guilty as hell - but not beyond a reasonable doubt. We deliberated for a day, and that was largely spent convincing a couple jurors that you can't put a guy away just because you *think* he might be guilty in a broader sense. You have to work with what the prosecutor and defense gave you.

Like you, I think that the jury did a good job sorting out the plays towards hysteria/emotion (which reminded me of an infamous case here - Fells Acres Daycare in Malden, MA) from the actual evidence presented. It's not an easy job, especially in a high-profile case like this was, and I really have to hand it to them for what they did.

Troy said...

Great post Ann. I too was struck by the jury -- their decency and their sense of mission. These red-county (portion of county) hicks (which was the way some media seemed to portray the jury) gave Michael Jackson the fairest shake they could give him. Sneddon comes out bad, besides the loss. He appeared too eager, too confident, too Ahab-like in his pursuit of the increasingly white whale.

The one question I have -- and perhaps it is a bit cynical... If the alleged victim had been a Santa Maria kid from their neck of the woods a middle class white kid.... It's easier to overlook what you know when the kids are unseemly and their mother is the poster girl for parens patriae gov't control.

That being said, I think the jury made the right decision. There was reasonable doubt about those kids and those specific instances.

I have no doubt, in general, that Michael Jackson is a child molestor, but knowing it and proving it are two different things.

vnjagvet said...

Thanks for your characteristic decency and balance, Ann.

After forty years of trial practice, I am still in awe of the fundamental soundness of our adversary system of justice, complete with the amateur fact finding vehicle of twelve random people who are willing to listen, consider and rule on concrete evidence, not speculation or conjecture, innuendo, rumor or the other innumerable distractions that can get in the way.

This type of "trial of the century", is as old as trials themselves, as you know from your study of case law, and history of the law. California is especially rife with such celebrity cases, and has been since Hollywood became the center of the film industry in the 1920's. Fatty Arbuckle, Errol Flynn, and others have fascinated generations of court watchers.

But the constant has been the fundamental integrity of the juries. Listening to these folks over the past few nights has reinforced my experience. I am proud of the system. I would have been equally as proud if these jurors had convicted, as I believe it could have gone either way.

I don't think Nancy Grace's comment was accurate. I don't think she hides her biases, though.

Mark Daniels said...

Good post at GlennReynolds.com.

Nancy Grace's dismissal of the Michael Jackson verdicts as "innocent by reason of celebrity" was not only intellectually lazy, but condescending toward the jurors. They, apparently unlike Grace, who should know better, understood their job: To presume innocence for these specific charges unless guilt was proven beyond all doubt.

Their statements after the trial indicate that they took that responsibility very seriously and that, though they may suspect Jackson to be a pedophile, they weren't charged with judging a suspected pattern of behavior. Nor were they asked to judge whether his sleeping with boys was wrong, weird, or ill-advised. They were to pass judgment on ten charges only, charges that were founded largely on the testimony of witnesses they did not find credible.

While driving around yesterday, I had the misfortune of listening to California-based sports talk show host Jim Rome for a few moments. (What can I say? I was desperate to listen to something on the radio.) He lamented that the jury couldn't have at least found Jackson guilty of something. "How about just for being Michael Jackson?" he asked.

Thank God we live in a country where idiotic logic--reflecting a judicial philosophy that might be more at home in the late Soviet Union or in Saddam's Iraq--doesn't prevail.

Jackson is weird.

He's probably a pedophile.

Anyone who would leave their kids with him is nuts.

I doubt that any jury of ordinary Americans would disagree with these three sentiments, including the one in Santa Maria that rendered its verdicts this week.

My guess also is that any randomly selected group of us, aware of Jackon's history and the strange statements he has made in defense of his lifestyle, would be predisposed to throw him into prison and maybe, to be resentful of his wealth and celebrity. In this case, Jackson was probably, in fact, disadvantaged by his weird celebrity.

But it's a tribute to these jurors that they didn't employ Nancy Grace, Jim Rome-justice. They were instead, Americans. And good ones at that!

Ann Althouse said...

Troy: Re "too Ahab-like in his pursuit of the increasingly white whale"-- the judge's name was Melville.

Mark Daniels said...

By the way, I linked to your excellent column on my site and rendered my comments here as a separate post there.

TWM said...

Great post, but I am not as confident with the jury's decision-making process as you are. Their post trial comments indicate more of an animosity towards the mother than a quest to achieve justice. Maybe the former did not interfere with the latter, but all I know is that a child molestor is free to continue his attacks on children -- which doesn't sound like justice to me.

Oh, and maybe all juries are this way. But if they are I strongly suggest they forgo post-trial interviews, because they come across badly to at least half of those listening to them. It would be better if they just kept their reasoning secret. At least that way, the media would have to move on.

Laura said...

I, too, felt much the same as you did, Ann: strangely unable to make up my mind about how I felt concerning this whole Michael Jackson thing. Usually I am not ambivalent when it comes to my opinions about such widely-publicized issues. O.J. Simpson? I said guilty with a capital G. Scott Peterson, also guilty, guilty, guilty. But Michael Jackson was not such a clear-cut situation, and as a result, I just couldn't seem to define how I felt about him and his alleged crimes.
When the verdict was read, I felt relief for him, and, strangely, for me, too. If he is a child molester, then I pray that he will one day be caught and convicted, on irrefutable evidence. But if he's not, and if he presents no more danger to society than the rest of us do, then we need to just leave him alone and let him live his life. Regardless of how odd the rest of the world finds him, if he is indeed not harming anyone else in any way, then he is entitled to the same freedoms that we all are.
The jury made its decision; I believe they did the best they could, and that's the end of it for this particular round of accusations. I pray that this is also the end of it, period, for any more Michael Jackson scandal.

Contributors said...

I think this is a classic case of a GUILTY man getting framed and it costing the DA the case.

From whiat I've heard I'd have acquitted as well but done so believing Jackson was a pedophile. Maybe not in this case, but a pedophile nonetheless.

Ann Althouse said...

I thought you might enjoy this lovely email a Wisconsin resident sent me:

"Hi, guest writer. We, as illustrated by your articles, have become a nation of blitherung idiots. Jackson jurors come out saying that, yah-he's probably guilty and then vote for not guilty and he maybe has learned his lesson. Think about it. What if you were to become a victim and how you would feel if the person who harmed you were let off the hook. Forget about the fact that one of your parents was a scuzball, think about our justice system and what happened to you. Your ole lady places you in a situation on purpose so a pervert could have his way with you and the person gets away with it. Think about it, because that is where our nation is today, a coniving son of a Bush as our glorious leader for a nation of numbskulls, think about it, ain't we marvelous? What's next? Ann, I was U W student ages ago, my sociology instructor was Dr Marie Finger Bale, a mentor to me, I wish she wer e here to talk with you."

Kathleen B. said...

I think that emailer wants you to think about it.

Troy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Troy said...

Ann: Ahab and Judge Melville... If they sat around drinking Starbuck's coffee and the bailiff's name is Queequeg, then I'd be scared.... Perhaps now I'm just veering into bad pun.