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Michael Jackson: ‘Guilty’ verdict after acquittal?

Published Jun 14, 2005 9:13 PM

“Not guilty.” The jury representative repeated the word 14 times. And then Michael Jackson was free to leave the Santa Barbara County Courthouse through the front door. People across the country and around the world stopped what they were doing to listen to the stunning verdict. Once the trial ended in acquittal, the court decision became the subject of intense debate.

Those who saw the trial as a vehicle for racism and reaction cheered the verdict.

But others, who saw this as a court case dealing with child sexual abuse, are angry and distraught. Why?

The jurors—not a single Black member among them—were interviewed as a group at length after the trial ended. They spoke sincerely and seriously about how carefully they worked to be objective and how painstakingly they had examined the evidence the prosecutor presented them with. After 14 weeks of hearing evidence and deliberating they explained that they had found no grounds for convicting Jackson on a single major or lesser charge.

Even the capitalist media reports that the belief is widespread that prosecutor Tom “Mad Dog” Sneddon has hounded Jackson for more than a decade as part of a vendetta.

Isn’t the myth of capitalist justice in the United States that a person is “innocent until proven guilty”?

So why did talk show hosts and political pundits race to their bully pulpits to rule Jackson “guilty” or to ridicule and dehumanize him after a jury—which no one could argue was made up of his peers—had carefully weighed the evidence and found him innocent?

It’s because Michael Jackson faced two trials: one in the court room and the other in the news room. Jackson was ridiculed and dehumanized in the media—and not just the tabloids. The lurid headlines that trumpeted prosecution claims while burying more subdued and smaller items about defense arguments served to win over the “jury” of public opinion. In fact, the media found Jackson guilty before the trial even began.

Once the publicity about the charges facing Jackson exploded into media frenzy, there was little room for news about the Catholic Church hierarchy covering up the sexual abuse of boys and girls, as well as women, within its ranks. Or the sexual violation and rape of youth by Pentagon military recruiters.

Nor did the monopolized media take the opportunity to provide education about the fact that sexual abuse of children is rampant in the U.S. and the preponderance of abusers are heterosexual men.

This trial was never about stopping the sexual abuse of children. It was a forum for racist caricatures of a Black entertainer who has promoted racial unity. And it was a campaign to vilify and portray as less than human a prominent person who does not fit the state-enforced gender roles.

But at least one newspaper got it right: Workers World. The newspaper you are reading takes seriously the struggle to build unity against all forms of capitalist bigotry and divisive ideology.

For earlier Workers World coverage of the Jackson trial, see: “Behind the headlines on Michael Jackson,”; and “Michael Jackson in the lion's den.”