I didn’t follow the Michael Jackson case very closely because I couldn’t stand to look at the photos of him that came with the news stories: the black man who’s used millions of dollars’ worth of plastic surgery to turn himself into a caricature of a white woman.
But from the little I did read about the case, I came away with a clear conclusion that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him: one self-proclaimed victim whose story that Jackson had abused him after the 1993 cash settlement of another abuse allegation struck me as fishy, plus a bunch of other witnesses who never quite said what the prosecution expected of him–plus of course, Jackson’s unpleasant practice of inviting young boys to his Neverland ranch to spend the night in his bed. The law requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt to convict someone of a crime, and I saw plenty of reasons for doubt. Sure, Jackson’s a freak, but we don’t send people to prison for being freaks (see The Other Charlotte’s The Verdict, June 13).
So I found myself agreeing for once with the Washington Post’s usually gratingly liberal Eugene Robinson, who writes this morning:
“It was hard to escape the conclusion that there was a troubling pattern of behavior here — a middle-aged man inviting a succession of boys for sleepovers, showing them skin mags, finally paying them off with multimillion-dollar settlements when they threatened to file charges.
“But there’s no charge of ‘first-degree faux-juvenile dirty-old-man weirdness’ in the California penal code, and the jury found reasonable doubt on the specific charges….
“I’ve…written that whatever happened at Neverland, the parents of the young boys who shared Jackson’s bed deserved a good measure of blame, and they still do.”
Yes. I don’t like Michael Jackson, and even during his heyday I didn’t pay much attention to his music. Parents, please keep him away from your kids. But he didn’t deserve to be put away–and there’s something to be said for our legal system that the jurors, middle-class Americans who undoubtedly shared my revulsion for what Jackson has made of himself. agreed.