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A Thriller: Michael Jackson is Vindicated
By: George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief
Originally posted 6/14/2005

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – African-Americans rejoiced over Michael Jackson being acquitted Monday of child molestation charges, not because of a firm belief in his innocence but because they welcome evidence that demonstrates that the criminal justice system can treat Blacks fairly, many activists and civil rights leaders say.

“We have a double standard in this country,” says psychologist Julia Hare of San Francisco. “That’s why so many Blacks cheered this case on. They do not condone molestation. It’s not even about Michael Jackson. It’s about the injustices in the history of this country.”

Joe Hopkins, a prominent attorney in Pasadena, Calif., agrees.

“For African-Americans, this case, like the O.J. [Simpson] case, was much bigger than Michael Jackson,” he says “This case raises a question of whether they – the dominant society – can bring flimsy charges against a named celebrity and win.”

After being in court for nearly four months and deliberating for seven days, the all-White jury acquitted Jackson of all 10 felony counts – four for child molesting, one for attempted child molesting, four of administering alcohol to aid in the commission of a felony, and conspiracy to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. If found guilty on all counts, Jackson could have received more than 18 years in prison.

Many media accounts had presumed that Jackson would be found guilty. One New York Times headline read, “Makeup of Jackson Jury Seems to Favor Prosecution.” And the Associated Press had even predicted that a guilty Michael Jackson would be assigned to the Corcoran State Prison, “located 100 miles northeast of the gated estate where prosecutors charge Jackson molested a 13-year-old boy.”

At a news conference after the verdict was announced, many of the jurors said prosecutors failed to prove their case.

“We expected probably better evidence…something that was a little more convincing, and it just wasn’t there,” said a person identified only as juror No. 10.

On the other side of the country, in Washington, D.C., some still believe that Jackson is guilty.

“I think the verdict was wrong,” says Jan Mitchell, 21, a graduate of Howard University. “I think he needs help. Either he needs to get psychological help or he needs to go to jail.”

Another Howard graduate, Melvin Barrolle, said he does not share that view.

“I believe he is innocent,” Barrolle says. “I felt that he did live in an alternate reality, but I didn’t feel that that was enough to convict him on these kind of charges. So, in many ways, it came out the way it was supposed to come out.”

Jesse Jackson said heavy-handed law enforcement officials transformed Jackson from an alleged perpetrator to a victim, at least in the eyes of the public.

“The very aggressive sheriff went into his home with 75 armed deputies,” Jesse Jackson said in an interview with the NNPA News Service. “They occupied his home and ransacked his home. Many in the news media indicted him before he was even tried. Then the judge was so generous in allowing [the prosecutor] to bring up all this old stuff. It seems that the odds were against Michael. In a great sense, at some point, Michael became the victim. A persecuted hero is a different hero than a guilty hero.”

Many experts believe Michael Jackson can now put the emotional and often embarrassing trial behind him.

“He’ll be able to bounce back,” says Attorney Hopkins. “He obviously has a worldwide fan base and the fans may just want to rebel against those who prosecuted him in the first place and go all-out to show that he hasn’t lost a thing. He’s got enough resources to bounce back and with the right public relations, he can go right back to the top.”

Public relations experts believe Jackson, 46, can remain a major force in the music industry for years to come.

“He will have an opportunity to restart his career,” says Ofield Dukes, a public relations executive who has had many prominent entertainers as clients. “It’s interesting that White fans throughout the world traveled to California because they had greater respect for his integrity than many Black fans. If Michael Jackson were to come to the MCI Center [in Washington, D.C.] tonight, it would be packed and probably 90 percent of the fans would be White.”

According to Julia Hare, that’s the problem.

“I hope that Michael Jackson, at this time, will sell Neverland [ranch] and that he will come to realize who he is and learn his lesson in blackness – that when it comes down to it, no matter how White you become, at the end of the day, the ones who are praying for you is your extended family of Black fans.”

Contributing to this report were NNPA Washington Correspondent Hazel Trice Edney, National Correspondent Makebra M. Anderson and Special Contributor Tessa Corie Smith.

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