GIVEN the bizarre circumstances in the Michael Jackson sex abuse trial in Santa Maria, Calif., not many Americans expected the much-tarnished King of Pop to skate free of all 10 charges against him. But he did.
The conventional wisdom was that after a weak start, the prosecution managed to close strong. District Attorney Tom Sneddon s team played a police videotape of the then 13-year-old boy explaining to cops how Mr. Jackson allegedly fondled him. Court observers cautiously predicted a conviction.
Even those sympathetic to Mr. Jackson thought the boy s closing testimony was the silver bullet that DA Sneddon needed. But Michael Jackson s defense team, led by Tom Mesereau, kept the focus on the shakiness of the prosecution s case and the opportunism of a family that seemed out to exploit a vulnerable star.
The jury chose to believe Mr. Mesereau s version of events. As others have noted, it isn t a crime to be weird in America. Still, one doesn t have to believe Mr. Jackson was as innocent as he claimed to agree that the prosecution overreached by loading up its case with a conspiracy charge that was outlandish on its face.
The jurors didn t believe the accuser s mother, the trial s least sympathetic witness, either. Because she gave false testimony in a previous fraud case, her histrionics and lack of credibility undermined the prosecution s argument.
Judge Rodney Melville told the jury to weigh the believability of the pop idol s current accuser only. They took him literally. Given the evidence the jury was working with, they couldn t send Jackson to prison for 20 years on the basis of contradictory testimony from disgruntled employees and a troubled family. They did the right thing in not convicting him.
We agree Mr. Jackson is bizarre by any standard. His insistence that sleeping with pre-teen boys is loving indicates how far removed from reality he is. That doesn t make him a child molester, at least as proven in a court of law, but it isn t a sign of a well balanced adult either.
Michael Jackson should not interpret the verdict as a license to continue the behavior that brought him to the bar of justice in the first place. Though his acquittal was definitive in the eyes of the court, it s the court of public opinion where things will remain dicey for some time to come.
We hope that after a period of introspection, the former King of Pop will confine his affections to his three children, or he will find himself once again in a sad, dark, legal freak show.