Celebrity, Sex and Race: Part 4, Guilty or...?

The end in the Michael Jackson trial is at hand. Or is it? If the ex-pop king is convicted of one or more of the multiple counts of child molestation, or even if there is a hung jury on one or more of the counts against him, that won't put an end to the never ending saga of the Jackson debacle. Those that clamor for his head won't be totally satisfied. A partial conviction, especially on a lesser count, will fuel their suspicion that Jackson used his wealth, fame, and notoriety to skip away from justice. The reaction will be even more manic on the other side. Jackson's rabid, blind faith fans will scream bloody murder to a guilty verdict.

They will burn up their websites with anguished shouts that a biased, bigoted, vindictive district attorney harassed and hounded the man until he finally got his pound of legal flesh. Jesse Jackson and maybe even Al Sharpton won't be far behind. They'll scream that the "system" took down another high, profile prominent black man. Jackson will join in their chorus. This time there won't be a gag order in effect to keep him mute. He'll fire the same salvos he did the moment that Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon publicly slapped him with the charges in November 2003. In an angry, defiant statement, he called the charges "serious" and "malicious." He blasted the "levity of the environment" that Sneddon allegedly created in announcing the charges against him. Jackson loudly protested that the implications of the charges were "distressing." He vowed then to prove the charges "unfounded."

Jackson, will almost certainly appeal a conviction. His pockets are still deep enough to stretch the appeal through every court that he can find to hear it. He'll argue adverse pre-trial publicity tainted the case. There was prosecutorial bias, judicial error, the wrongful admission of evidence, and that Judge Rodney S. Melville gave faulty and flawed juror instructions. The jury, that had no blacks on it, will be the prime target of Jackson's, his fans, and maybe even some black's special wrath. It will be the exact reverse of the O.J. Simpson case. The jury in that case was predominantly black, and their decision to acquit him brought down the scorn of the nation on them. Millions were convinced that the black juror's racial blinders were wrapped so tightly that they let a double murderer waltz away scot free.

In the case of the Santa Maria jury, Jackson backers will say that those same racial blinders were wrapped just as tight and they unfairly convicted Jackson because of racial bias. There's no proof that race played a part in the Jackson trial. The jury took more than a week to reach its verdict. They took the case, the charges and Jackson seriously enough to weigh them thoughtfully and carefully.

But that won't quiet Jackson's backers. If anything, the verdict, and those that rendered it, will simply provide more grist to keep the rumor mill churning for months about what next for Jackson. The case won't, or maybe can't, quietly recede from the media and public's radar scope. There will be endless speculation about Jackson's future. Will he have to sale Neverland, his share of the Beatles Catalogue, and give up his lavish lifestyle to pay off his mountainous legal debts? Will he have to serve a jail sentence? Will he get special treatment behind bars? Will he be able to handle any sentence, special or otherwise? If there's no jail sentence, at least in the immediate future, will he, or can he, ever get his moribund career back on track again? Will his fans and supporters remain as loyal to him as they've been from the second that the charges were leveled against him? Will the Jackson case spawn a spate of grossly prurient kiss and tell books about the rise and fall of superstar Jackson, the trial, and his future in the aftermath of the trial?

No matter how these and many other questions about the Jackson trial aftermath are answered, the Jackson saga will continue to captivate a large part of the public, and obsess many in the media. It will cast a harsh glare on the fetish of celebrity, wealth, race, media overkill, and the workings of the criminal justice system.

The Jackson case again drove home the point that there's still a slavish need to make icons of its celebrity heroes. Many Americans relentlessly manufacture racial, sexual, and class caricatures of these icons. Many blacks hold to the unshakable belief that there are secret plots, conspiracies, and hidden plans to nail wealthy, prominent black men. Much of the media has turned celebrity cases into gossip and titillation cash cows. And the rich and famous can often buy special treatment, and even justice. A conviction won't change any of that. Whatever measure of justice Jackson gets, or doesn't get, depends on which side is doing the talking. One thing can be said, it did bring the issues of celebrity, sex, and race to a spectacular head in the media and the public's eye.



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