June 7, 2005

"Forget the century, it wasn't even the cultural story of the spring."

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.


Internal Medicine Doctor said...

I think a big part ogf it is that I don't think any trial will be as big as the OJ trial for a long while.

After the OJ trial was over I think that a lot of people thought "Did I really spend so much time thinking about this, why?"

DrTony said...

I can't wait for this to be over. I've noticed that Fox News has become the "All Michael Jackson, All The Time" channel. Each of the shows each night has a section on MJ. I'm burned out on the coverage, even though I've been trying to avoid it.

Bruce Hayden said...

You also had the racial angle with the OJ trial. My boss at the time was Af-Am (I got this term from the Heather McDonald column on Harvard). There hasn't been this much solidarity in that community since. 98% of Blacks think he was framed. (Well, just an estimate - but the polls were up there close). This of course was surprising, as OJ had abandoned that community when he made it big.

I still don't know if he did it. My Crim Law prof in law school was big on the difference in crimes of passion and crimes of premeditation, esp. as to capital crimes. If OJ did it, it doesn't fit either. It was bloody enough to be a crime of passion, or, alternatively, but less likely, of opportunity. But it would have taken a lot of premeditation for OJ to have pulled it off. But then, why the knife and all the blood? Very inefficient way to kill. Esp. when you are in a hurry / on a tight timeline. See the problem?

As for Wacko Jacko. Clearly a pervert. But his "victims'" parents are just as bad. So, no clear choice of a bad guy - they all are. How could a decent parent let their young son sleep with any unrelated adult? Esp. one who looks as wierd as Jacko.

What is interesting is your distinction here. With OJ, the state may have been able to prove that he was the one committing the murders by a preponderance of the evidence, but the jurors clearly believed the state had not come close to proving that he was the murderer beyond a reasonable doubt. Here, it will be the same, only different. Was he a pervert with this specific boy in this specific instance beyond a reasonable doubt. Yes, we all know he is a pervert, and that young boys are involved. But was he in a specific instance.

I do wonder though if the trial would survive an appeal. There seemed to be a lot of pattern testimony, which is always suspect.

The problem here, IMHO, is that we have things just reversed. The prosecution has shown that Jacko is probably guilty of whatever crime they can show actually occurred, but are are apparently struggling to show that one was committed.

But that is just backwards. The state is supposed to start with the crime, and then show that the defendant did it. In this case, they start with a presumably guilty defendant, and have to look for a crime that he committed.

As I said, I do think that he is a pervert, as do most Americans. But I don't agree with the way he is being tried.

Oh, and last weekend, my daughter played one of his old songs for me - from back before his voice changed (somewhat). You remember the one(s) - where he came in over the top of his brothers. Back before he became Wacko Jacko.

HaloJonesFan said...

Personally, I think it's a lot simpler than all that. We've just had a lot of time to get used to "wacko Jacko", so it's not really a surprise anymore. The OJ Simpson thing came completely out of left field.

Becker said...

Disclaimer: I didn't watch 1 minute of OJ. I have seen probably 10 news reports of the Jackson fiasco.

That said, I think most people, me included, had a positive perception of OJ. Watched him play football, Avis commercials, etc. He seemed to be a likeable guy. We wanted the whole thing to not be true. I think he killed Nicole & whatshisname, but I still wish it wasn't true.

Michael Jackson on the other hand is in the running for the wierdest person (?) on earth. Ever. I think most people think he certainly could have and would have done it. He is not a sympathetic or likeable character. Watching him, and listening to him, will make most peoples skin crawl. Bottom line is the opposite of OJ. If he's found guilty, we (I) would like to see him in general population for a couple months. If he's not found guilty most people will never see him as anything but a child molester who got a pass.