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Vendetta Santa Barbara Style
Michael Jackson is on trial for 10 offenses, including child molestation. Tom Sneddon, Santa Barbara district attorney, has an "interesting" case. He obtained an indictment from a Grand Jury in a secret proceeding where the defense is allowed no voice. He did this only a couple of days before a judge was going to hold a preliminary hearing to hear the evidence and establish probable cause to bind Mr. Jackson to an expensive and damaging trial. The accuser has recanted his charges against Mr. Jackson multiple times. He has also accused his parents of sexual abuse and then recanted those accusations. The accuserís mother made accusations of kidnapping and battery against a department store and received a $137,000 settlement, after the accuser was detained for shoplifting. There have been financial demands made of Mr. Jackson by the accuserís family. Mr. Jackson has multiple witnesses who dispute the accuserís account of events; the only supporting witness is the accuserís younger brother, who some say has been carefully coached by his mother.
"Since O.J. Simpson, high profile clients are effectively unable to receive justice in the courts of California. No juror wants to be subject to the contempt and ridicule that harangues the O.J. jurors to this very day."
Mr. Sneddon has had a well-known axe to grind with Michael Jackson for over ten years. Now, he is using the one tool that many (including me) feel is the one thing that can stymie due process in order to bring Mr. Jackson to trial. In California, Mr. Jackson cannot elect a bench trial since the prosecution also has a right to a trial by jury. Since O.J. Simpson, high profile clients are effectively unable to receive justice in the courts of California. No juror wants to be subject to the contempt and ridicule that harangues the O.J. jurors to this very day. Therefore, the tables are effectively turned. The defendant has the burden of proof, no matter how flimsy the prosecution case. Example: Scott Peterson. That case was so flimsy that it almost did not get past the preliminary hearing. There was no ironclad evidence linking the man to his wifeís murder. Yet Scott Peterson sits on Death Row, after using the same lawyer as Mr. Jackson initially used in this case. Robert Blakeís goose is equally cooked, althought the case is stronger.
Michael Jackson is not a victim of racism. He is, however, a victim of a prosecutorís vendetta. The Grand Jury is so onerous that the Constitution hopefully speaks of its abolition. A bunch of people gather in secret, hear only what the prosecutor wants them to hear, and then issue an indictment that bypasses an impartial judgeís evaluation of a case. Itís high time to eliminate the Grand Jury. The case against Michael Jackson is worse tham flimsy. But the combination of massive publicity, the "lemming effect" of people looking to kick somebody while heís down, and an eccentric client spell doom unless the defense whips out a bombshell.
"Based on the evidence I have seen, I would vote to acquit Michael Jackson. I would dispense with all of Mr. Jacksonís eccentricities and concentrate on the testimony of the accuser and his family members."
Based on the evidence I have seen, I would vote to acquit Michael Jackson. I would dispense with all of Mr. Jacksonís eccentricities and concentrate on the testimony of the accuser and his family members. At face value, it appears that these people are scorned blackmailers seeking revenge and the guaranteed payday that would come from a criminal conviction. Their testimony is unreliable at best. Based on that, I donít even see the need for Mr. Jacksonís attorneys to present any defense. They should, after plastering the daylights out of the prosecution witnesses, move for a directed verdict -- in essence, a finding by the judge that the prosecution has not made its case and no jury could ever convict on the evidence. I think that they stand a damned good chance of getting that.
Will it help Michael Jackson? Well, the prosecution will take four months to present its case, and that is about sixteen weeks or eighty news days of garbage being spouted against Mr. Jackson. In addition, Mr. Jackson will end up paying about $5 million minimum to get to that point. Short of a court declaring Michael Jackson actually innocent, his career is effectively over. He is a spendthrift up to his eyeballs in debt, with family members who live off his dwindling fortune. Even if he wins at the criminal trial, the accuserís family will definitely go for broke for a payday in civil court. The only thing that will preclude a civil trial is a finding of actual innocence.
Now it is one thing to say that I would vote to acquit. Itís another to say that I believe that Mr. Jackson is actually innocent of the crimes of which heís accused. So let me make my position clear: I believe that Michael Jackson is actually innocent of the crimes of which heís accused. He has had too much plastic surgery for my tastes. I donít know why he prefers his wine in soda cans. He appears to be a Peter Pan. He lives in an amusement park of an estate named "Neverland." None of these things are unlawful. They may be weird. But, to paraphrase his song, Leave him Alone!
The prosecutorial vendetta in this case makes it crystal clear that the Grand Jury must be eliminated. Something must also be done to reverse the backlash against California high-profile clients. And Michael Jackson didnít do it.