10 Years Since Michael Jackson’s Full Acquittal only Roger Friedman and Fans Recall It
The way the media reacts to the 10th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s full court acquittal is disgusting.
You will ask what their reaction is?
Their reaction is that there is no reaction. They simply pretend that it never happened and there is much more important news to report – for example, which stars spent millions on their wedding rings this year.
In 2010 Charles Thomson wrote a brilliant article about the shameful media coverage of Michael Jackson’s trial where he analyzed piece by piece both the trial and the industry-wide magnitude of the media failings in reporting it. He also reflected on how all of it would be remembered in the future:
It is difficult to know how history will remember the Michael Jackson trial. Perhaps as the epitome of western celebrity obsession. Perhaps as a 21st century lynching. Personally, I think it will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in journalistic history.
Charles Thomson thought that it would be remembered.
But only five years later, on the 10th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s acquittal, the whole thing is already forgotten or is thoroughly ignored. My recent web search for at least some comments from the media people brought a nearly zero result – with one exception though.
It was only Roger Friedman who commemorated the event by calling it “outrageous railroading” (a description all honest people will agree with) and writing an article that spoke of Michael Jackson’s malicious prosecution and said that it was the trial that eventually killed him.
All the rest of the media fully ignored the tenth anniversary of Michael’s acquittal and their totally disgraceful behavior before, during and after the trial.
In case you forgot it here are some excerpts from Charles Thomson’s article to remind you what it was like:
Newspapers reacted just as hysterically as TV stations. ‘Sicko!’ shrieked the New York Daily News. ‘Jacko: Now Get Out Of This One’ goaded the New York Post.
The Sun – Britain’s biggest newspaper – ran an article titled ‘He’s Bad, He’s Dangerous, He’s History’. The piece branded Jackson an ‘ex-black ex-superstar’, a ‘freak’ and a ‘twisted individual’ and called for his children to be taken into care.
….While the media was busy badgering a host of quacks and distant acquaintances for their views on the scandal, the team of prosecutors behind the latest Jackson case was engaging in some highly questionable behavior – but the media didn’t seem to care.
For instance, when the DA found out about two taped interviews in which the entire Arvizo family sang Jackson’s praises and denied any abuse, he introduced a conspiracy charge and claimed they’d been forced to lie against their will.
In a similar instance, Jackson’s lawyer Mark Geragos appeared on NBC in January 2004 and announced that the singer had a ‘concrete, iron-clad alibi’ for the dates on the charge sheet. By the time Jackson was re-arraigned in April for the conspiracy charge, the molestation dates on the rap sheet had been shifted by almost two weeks.
Sneddon was later caught seemingly trying to plant fingerprint evidence against Jackson, allowing accuser Gavin Arvizo to handle adult magazines during the grand jury hearings, then bagging them up and sending them away for fingerprint analysis.
….Instead of stories about Gavin Arvizo’s lies and the two brothers’ contradictory allegations, newspaper pages were filled with snarky opinion pieces about Jackson’s pajamas, even though ‘pajama day’ had been days previously. Thousands of words were dedicated to whether or not Jackson wore a wig and the Sun even ran an article attacking Jackson for the accessories he pinned to his waistcoats every day. It seemed like the press would write anything to avoid discussing the boy’s cross examination, which severely undermined the prosecution’s case.
This habit of reporting lurid allegations but ignoring the cross examination which discredited them became a distinct trend throughout Jackson’s trial.
….When the prosecution rested, the media seemed to lose interest in the trial. The defense case was given comparatively little newspaper space and air time. The Hollywood Reporter, which had been diligently reporting on the Jackson trial, missed out two whole weeks of the defense case. The attitude seemed to be that unless the testimony was graphic and salacious – unless it made a good soundbite – it wasn’t worth reporting.
…Thomas Mesereau commented retrospectively that the media had been “almost salivating about having [Jackson] hauled off to jail.”
When the jury delivered 14 ‘not guilty’ verdicts, the media was ‘humiliated’, Mesereau said in a subsequent interview. Media analyst Tim Rutten later commented, “So what happened when Jackson was acquitted on all counts? Red faces? Second thoughts? A little soul-searching, perhaps? Maybe one expression of regret for the rush to judgment? Naaawww. The reaction, instead, was rage liberally laced with contempt and the odd puzzled expression. Its targets were the jurors… Hell hath no fury like a cable anchor held up for scorn.”
In a post-verdict news conference Sneddon continued to refer to Gavin Arvizo as a ‘victim’ and said he suspected that the ‘celebrity factor’ had impeded the jury’s judgment – a line many media pundits swiftly appropriated as they set about undermining the jurors and their verdicts.
….The following day on Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer upheld the notion that the verdict had been influenced by Jackson’s celebrity status. “Are you sure?” she pleaded. “Are you sure that this gigantically renowned guy walking into the room had no influence at all?”
The Washington Post commented, “An acquittal doesn’t clear his name, it only muddies the water.” Both the New York Post and the New York Daily News ran with the snide headline ‘Boy, Oh, Boy!’
….The story was over. There were no apologies and no retractions. There was no scrutiny – no inquiries or investigations. Nobody was held to account for what was done to Michael Jackson. The media was content to let people go on believing their heavily skewed and borderline fictitious account of the trial. That was that.
….The media did a number on its audience and it did a number on Jackson. After battling his way through an exhausting and horrifying trial, riddled with hideous accusations and character assassinations, Michael Jackson should have felt vindicated when the jury delivered 14 unanimous not guilty verdicts. But the media’s irresponsible coverage of the trial made it impossible for Jackson to ever feel truly vindicated. The legal system may have declared him innocent but the public, on the whole, still thought otherwise. Allegations which were disproven in court went unchallenged in the press. Shaky testimony was presented as fact. The defense’s case was all but ignored.
When asked about those who doubted the verdicts, the jury replied, “They didn’t see what we saw.”
They’re right. We didn’t. But we should have done. And those who refused to tell us remain in their jobs unchecked, unpunished and free to do exactly the same thing to anybody they desire.
Now that’s what I call injustice.
One could imagine that the media are now keeping silence about that disgraceful “episode” because they are ashamed of what they did to Jackson and prefer not to recall their own painful downfall.
Shame? But there is no shame.
Do you know what results I get if I search the browser for the media take on the acquittal by typing “ten years ago Michael Jackson…”? With the exception of some articles by Michael’s fans the results I get from the media are as follows:
- “January 31: 10 years ago Michael Jackson’s molestation trial began”
- “March 12: 10 years ago Michael Jackson’s friends said he was on the brink of suicide”.
These example come from a Daily Express page which is specially dedicated to “looking back at the last 100 years, 50 years and 25 years and bringing you what happened on this day in history”. The UK Daily Express evidently thinks that the above are the only two newsworthy events concerning Jackson that took place ten years ago and should go down into history now.
And no matter how hard you try to find a similar reminder from them about June 13 being the day when 10 years ago Michael Jackson was acquitted on all fourteen counts, you won’t get any trace of it. At least I wasn’t able to find it.
If you read the media history records of this type you will never know how and when the trial ended or whether it ended at all.
Actually the above is a reflection of a true situation around Michael Jackson. His fans still remember and rejoice that ten years ago the justice system and 12 honest people fully acquitted him, and that the team of lawyers led by a man of great integrity Thomas Mesereau saved Michael from an imminent death in prison (and prolonged his life by four more years), but as regards the media they hardly remember it, and it even looks like for them the trial has not ended.
The trial is indeed going on – at least for the media and those standing behind this never-ending anti-MJ campaign as all its key players, except Sneddon who left us for natural reasons, are still doing their customary job of smearing Michael’s name and destroying his legacy on a regular basis.
Now these people are busy spreading new fabricated stories about Jackson and same as the previous time (with the Arvizos) they never check them – they simply repeat what some scumbags say savoring every detail of their lurid tales.
These days it is called reporting.
This is why Roger Friedman’s lonely article remembering Michael’s acquittal in this desert of media oblivion is so valuable to us – it is not free from some misconceptions but at least he remembers it, and remembers it right.
by Roger Friedman – June 12, 2015 1:28 pm
Ten years ago tomorrow a jury in Santa Maria, California acquitted mega pop star Michael Jackson of child molestation and conspiracy. Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon charged Michael with molesting Garvin Arvizo and then kidnapping Gavin’s family– his mother, brother, and sister. Attorney Thomas Mesereau mounted a brilliant defense and Michael, after four months, was acquitted.
But the damage was done. Michael had sat through weeks and weeks of crazy testimony and accusations. His entire life was laid open– his finances, his personal peccadilloes, relationships with every single person he ever knew, descriptions of his body parts. His mother and sometimes his father, or a sibling, sat in the row behind him. They heard it all. Everything was on the record for his child one day to read.
By the time the jury reached their verdict, Jackson was destroyed. There was no jubilant celebration. He was done. He took his kids and left California. Mesereau advised him, “Leave here now.” Why? He knew, as did I, and every reasonable person who’d watched this circus since Jackson’s arrest in November 2003, that Sneddon had it in for him. Sneddon was not going to stop until he somehow put Michael Jackson in jail. If Michael stayed at Neverland, in Santa Barbara County, he would always be a target.
Sneddon’s vendetta against Jackson reached back a decade, to when Michael agreed to a financial settlement with the family of another boy, Jordan Chandler. It was the worst decision that Michael ever made. It created an aura around him of a pedophile, one that he couldn’t shake. It made him a target for more extortion. It turned him into a real drug addict who couldn’t always make other, clear decisions. Eventually, it would kill him.
What was the upside of the Chandler settlement? To the lawyers and advisers, it kept Michael out of jail and court in 1994. Sneddon couldn’t prosecute Michael without the Chandlers. Sneddon was defeated before he could make his case. Jackson, Sneddon felt, danced away. Instead of leaving it alone, Jackson mocked Sneddon publicly in song, taunted him. And Sneddon vowed revenge.
There are just a couple of things you need to know about that trial. Gavin Arvizo’s mother, proved in court to be a scammer and a schemer, was crazy. Sneddon found in her a perfect collaborator. She said and did whatever he wanted. It didn’t matter that her so called “kidnappers” had a full record of their time with her including receipts for spa treatments, movie dates, fast food restaurant meals and shopping safaris. When those guys — Frank Cascio and Vinnie Amen– came to me in 2004 with a huge metal briefcase filled with records of what had gone on, the first thing I remember saying to them was, “Are you sure the Arvizos didn’t kidnap you?”
I was joking, but that’s really what had happened. Gavin Arvizo had cancer. His mother, Janet, used the cancer as leverage to worm her way into Michael’s life. Michael Jackson was naive about one thing since his “We are the World” hit project– that he could save the world, and “save the children who are destined to die,” as Marvin Gaye once sang. Michael, after selling 100 million records, and being dubbed the “King of Pop,” saw himself as a savior. Saving Gavin was just part of his duties.
And that’s what blew him up. He allowed Martin Bashir to come to his house and make a documentary that showed Michael embracing the Arvizos. It was appalling. The worst part of Bashir’ heavily slanted film, called “Living with Michael Jackson,” was a segment in which Gavin– who Michael had brought to Neverland for the filming to show that he was a savior– talked about sleeping in Michael’s bed. When the documentary ran on ABC at the end of January 2003, this moment set off alarms. I wrote at the time that it was possible Michael would wind up in jail. The internet blew up.
Sneddon immediately sent his people to the Arvizos’ apartment in Los Angeles. They left his card under their door. And when Michael realized what had happened, he kicked the freeloading Arvizo’s out of Neverland. They had to return to their real life– no more spa treatments and gifts. And that’s when Sneddon found a conspirator in Janet Arvizo. The only thing was, he didn’t do due diligence. He was so excited to have someone who could help him realize his goal of putting Michael Jackson in jail, he never investigated Janet Arvizo’s background.
My favorite moment sitting in that Santa Maria courthouse? When Tom Mesereau got Janet Arvizo to testify she thought Michael Jackson was going to steal her children by taking them away in a hot air balloon. The courtroom howled. Judge Melville banged his gavel. It was the culmination of a devastating testimony skillfully delived by Mesereau. Everyone knew at that moment the jury was not going to buy Sneddon’s prosecution. Everyone, that is, except Sneddon.
There were good prosecutors on Sneddon’s team. Ron Zonen was and is respected. So is Gordon Auchincloss. They had some great dramatic moments in court. But they never questioned Sneddon’s motives. They followed him right off the bridge into the ocean.
The prosecutors were so out of touch with what was happening that on the eve of the verdict, they threw themselves a congratulatory party. In a public restaurant. A woman I knew stumbled upon them and called me immediately. This is what I wrote on June 10, 2005:
The prosecutors in Michael Jackson’s child molestation and conspiracy trial apparently feel they’ve already won their case.
On Wednesday night [June 8], the whole lot of them — DA Tom Sneddon, Ron Zonen, Gordon Auchincloss, their wives and families — all celebrated at the Hitching Post restaurant in Casmalia.
The Hitching Post, cousin of the Buellton restaurant featured in the movie “Sideways,” is considered the best restaurant in the greater Santa Maria area.
Sneddon was so happy that he actually embraced celebrity crime reporter Aphrodite Jones. She told me he was in a jubilant mood, and the most outgoing of all the people on hand.
Said one observer, “This group was happy. There was definitely a celebratory mood.”
The prosecutor’s team was first spotted making merry at the bar, and then retreated to a private dining room behind the bar that has no door.
“They could be heard laughing and carrying on,” said a source.
Also present at what could only be termed a party were several of the police investigators involved in the case, including Sgts. Steve Robel and Jeff Klapakis.
By contrast, little has been seen around town of defense attorney Tom Mesereau, who’s kept a low profile since the jury began deliberations a week ago.
It was two weeks since the defense had rested. It would be five more days before the jury would come back with their stunning verdict that rebuked Sneddon’s entire case. But there they were, so full of hubris, certain that they’d prevailed.
In a way they had. Tom Sneddon essentially killed Michael Jackson. If Sneddon had really been objective and had investigated the Arvizo’s properly, the case would not have come to trial. But he turned it into a circus from day 1–staging a surprise raid of Neverland, conspiring with tabloid reporter Diane Dimond (whose entire career is built on her obsession with being Jackson’s snarling enemy)– to make it a big media splash. Nothing was done by the book. It was all done to ruin Michael Jackson and it worked.
The Arvizos– we’ve never heard from them again, not a peep (except for Diane Dimond’s report about his 2013 wedding where — unbelievably– at least one Michael Jackson was played by the deejay). Jordan Chandler? His father, after turning his son into a recluse and destroying Jackson’s reputation, committed suicide five months after Michael’s death at the hands of Dr. Conrad Murray. In 1996, a journalist named Mary Fisher wrote a seminal piece in GQ proving Evan Chandler and his ex-wife’s new husband had brainwashed Jordy into thinking he’d been molested. They got $20 million for their hard work. Thirteen years later Michael Jackson was dead.
The jury in the trial thought that once they’d acquitted Michael, the solid gold gates to Neverland would swing open and Jackson would thank each of them individually. They were so wrong. The gates snapped shut. Jackson was never seen again in the town of Los Olivos. Two weeks later he and his children were gone, kicking off four years of homelessness that would end in death. Neverland fell silent. Unlike with the prosecutors, there was no celebration of this bitter victory.