LOS ANGELES – Inside the compact, wood-paneled courtroom that will soon host the trial of Michael Jackson’s personal physician, many of the tabloid-worthy elements of the singer’s life will go unspoken. Outside, however, many Jackson fans say they expect a media free-for-all that will dredge up discredited allegations and salacious story lines, once again tarnishing the singer’s legacy. Jackson, they fear, will once again be on trial.
Around the globe, the King of Pop’s supporters are already scanning headlines and airwaves for stories that contain inaccuracies about the singer’s life, brand him a pedophile or describe him by the dismissive moniker “Jacko.” The items quickly result in calls to editors, reporters, producers and a flurry of Facebook and Twitter posts to press for changes. In some instances, the references are removed. As the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray draws closer, jury selection resumes on Friday and opening statements are scheduled for Sept. 27, concerns about Jackson’s portrayal are growing. “We don’t want Michael Jackson to be put up on a pedestal like he never made any mistakes,” said Erin Jacobs, a founder of the Southern California-based group Justice4MJ. But she said the focus should remain on Murray, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter and who authorities allege gave Jackson a lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol and other sedatives.
The Houston-based cardiologist has pleaded not guilty. Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor has already limited what information Murray’s defense attorneys can introduce about Jackson during the trial, excluding any details from the singer’s 2005 child molestation trial, which ended in acquittal, his financial troubles, and witnesses who might describe the singer as a drug addict. The rulings have drawn praise from fans and court watchers alike, but may have limited effect in the era of blogs and social media. “For some salacious news organizations and the blogosphere, there won’t be a check on fairness,” said Ben Holden, director of the Reynolds National Center for the Courts and Media. Editors and producers have long acted similar to judges by deciding what details are necessary or irrelevant for news coverage, said Holden, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and attorney who attended Murray’s preliminary hearing.
Blogs and social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, which are now news sources, present new challenges. “It has always been the case that the juror’s neighbors had information that the juror didn’t have,” Holden said. Yet nowadays, the neighbor “doesn’t just get Walter Cronkite, he also gets Nancy Grace and TMZ.” Potentially skewed posts from fans also have to be considered, Holden said. Many fan groups have active Twitter profiles and Facebook pages, including those aimed at providing explanatory content on the trial. One such site, PositivelyMichael.com, has a forum focused on the Murray case and other aspects of Jackson’s death that has nearly 9,500 posts. Moderator Lynn Mathis said the site has become an international destination for updates on the case. “We have members all over the world,” Mathis said. “This trial will not be covered there the way it is here.” Similar to the efforts by U.S.-based fans, international groups are closely watching their domestic media for stories they feel treat the singer unfairly.
One such group, MJ4Justice, has founders from three nations: the U.S., Ireland and Canada. Grace, who has been criticized for comments advocating the conviction of Florida mother Casey Anthony in her recent murder trial, is one of the television pundits Jackson fans say they are concerned about. A jury acquitted Anthony of killing her 2-year-old daughter earlier this year and Murray’s attorneys have cited Grace’s commentary as a primary reason jurors in Murray’s case should be sequestered. Pastor refused. HLN, which airs Grace’s show, is already offering significant coverage of the Jackson manslaughter trial. The network also airs a show hosted by commentator Dr. Drew Pinsky, who has devoted several segments to the trial and who Jacobs and other fans criticized for focusing on sensational aspects of Jackson’s life.
“We don’t feel that it’s relevant that these talking heads like Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew get on every night and further degrade a dead man’s legacy,” Jacobs said. Pinsky addressed the fan reaction on a recent show: “Please, guys. I don’t have a strong feeling about this. I’m not trying to protect anybody.
21 September 2011 | 19:56 Viewed 469 times