FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What If Jackson had been on Trial in Massachusetts?

and JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

There’s at least one man recently convicted of homosexual misconduct with a minor, now serving a twelve to fifteen-year sentence, who surely received news of Michael Jackson’s acquittal with a sigh of envy at the quality of Jackson’s defense team and the sturdy independence of a jury that refused to be swayed by the lynch mob atmosphere that has hung over the Jackson trial like a toxic fog. Well return forthwith to that convicted sex offender, Father Paul Shanley, but first, what lessons should we draw from Jackson’s acquittal on all counts?

The not-guilty verdict for Jackson shows once again what can happen when the prosecution and defense are on at least an equal footing. Jackson had a top-flight lawyer with an unlimited budget. The prosecutors did what most prosecutors do in America: pile up the charges, on the calculation that the defendant will plead out.

In most criminal cases the over-charging is accompanied by the allegations of jail-house snitches and by lies on the witness stand from cops. The defendants have either no budget at all or only modest resources. They can’t afford expert witnesses, or private investigators to pick the prosecution’s case apart.

When a defendant can afford a good lawyer, top-flight investigators, expert witnesses and kindred firepower, very often the prosecution’s case simply falls apart, starting with sloppy handling of evidence, compromised forensic work and contradictory testimony from the police.

In Jackson’s case the piling up of the charges led the prosecution into the “conspiracy” disaster. They had to put the mother of the boy with cancer on the stand to elicit testimony about her supposed kidnapping on the Jackson estate. Every minute that mother stayed on the stand, the prosecution took a terrible beating.

The twelve did exactly what jurors should do and offered a magnificent example of the abiding importance of the jury as the fundamental bulwark of freedom in this Republic. In their press conference the jurors laid waste the disappointed lynch mob with dignified and articulate responses.

Their bottom line was simple: the prosecution had simply failed to make its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Such outrageous prosecutorial strategies, okayed by the judge, as allowing the jury to hear previous allegations (many of them not even first hand accounts) against Jackson ­ on which he’d not been convicted ­ had cut no ice with these jurors. “He may have molested one of those kids, but they never proved he molested this kid”, one juror said.

Nor were the jurors ever jolted from common sense. Those stacks of lurid porn, which the prosecution spent more than a week projecting in front of the jury on a giant screen in an attempt to further sully Jackson’s reputation? So what, said a juror. Jackson’s an adult. So what if the magazines were called “Barely Legal”? The key word is “legal”, offered another juror.

It was a great day for the jury and a gratifying blow against the lynch mob, including outfits such as CNN which averted their gaze from photographs of abuse at Abu Ghraib, while stigmatizing Jackson as the supreme abuser.

The jury in Santa Maria also dealt a much deserved blow to the social police, the cabal of psychologists, “victim’s rights” lawyers and therapists who, through a kind of modern-day mesmerism, yanked and manipulated tales of molestation from poor teens who had roamed the playgrounds of Neverland.

This gang of self-appointed termagants, lead by Gloria Allred and child psychologist Carol Lieberman, has been hounding Jackson since 1993, filing complaints with child welfare offices across southern California and ultimately bullying the DA’s office into bringing this failed case. Allred even went so far as to try to have the state seize Jackson’s own children.

But that jury in Santa Maria sent them all packing.

Contrast this process in Santa Barbara County to the disgraceful trial of Father Paul Shanley who was convicted in Massachusetts earlier this year, based on testimony far, far flimsier than what the jury rejected in the Jackson case.

Shanley was found guilty on the uncorroborated testimony of one man’s “recovered memories” of abuse at the hands of Shanley many years before. Paul Busa claimed Shanley had pulled him out of religious classes and sexually abused him for years starting when he was six. Not a single witness from those who had worked at the school could corroborate these memories in any way.

These days “recovered memory” has been thoroughly discredited. The judge should have thrown the case out. The jury was caught up in the hysteria. A skilled defense attorney could have mounted as deadly an assault on the recovered memories as Jackson’s lawyer did on the “kidnaped” mother. But Shanley’s lawyer was not up to the challenge.

So the 74-year Shanley drew a 12 to 15 year prison sentence in a case where the lynch mob atmosphere generated by the Boston Globe and other media had a chilling effect on both judge and jury. The prosecutors must have known how lucky they were. Aware of the weakness of their case, last year they’d offered Shanley two years’ house arrest. He refused the deal, insisting he was innocent.

It shows that culturally and intellectually Santa Barbara County is a hundred times more enlightened than that home of the witch trials, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. But what county in America isn’t?

 

More articles by:

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail