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Thread: Andrew Vachss' Take on Michael Jackson

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    Wily Wench Cassandra from VTRF is on a distinguished road Cassandra from VTRF's Avatar
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    Default Andrew Vachss' Take on Michael Jackson

    Unsafe at Any Age

    By ANDREW VACHSS
    Published: June 15, 2005
    New York Times

    A TRIAL is not a search for truth. It is a contest, and often, one that produces no winners. In certain cases - the Scottsboro Boys and Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam in the murder of Emmett Till - a trial produces an outcome so repulsive that we are shocked into individual and collective self-examination. Other trials cost us much, but teach us nothing. Guess where the Michael Jackson verdict fits in?

    With that verdict, the pious waves of outrage are as misguided as the verdict was predictable. Overwrought posturing to the contrary, "pedophilia" was not on trial; a celebrity was.

    Does that mean that if a noncelebrity had committed the sex acts alleged in the Jackson trial, he would be facing the endless years of incarceration we were constantly reminded of throughout the proceedings? No. The truth is that a defendant who pleaded guilty would probably have disappeared into the probation-and-treatment maw without a ripple, resurfacing later as a (possibly) registered and (supposedly) rehabilitated ex-offender. Until the next time.

    Ask any experienced defense lawyer: the real risks are for an accused person who is innocent. A guilty defendant has many more options available.

    Sure, it's easy enough to blame the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office, and hard to imagine a softer target. But a calmer look at the probable motivations behind the acquittal will suggest that the jury could certainly have perceived Mr. Jackson's accuser as a victim, and yet have been unable to come to a decision as to the identity of the true perpetrator.

    No matter what the experts proclaim, this trial was not a "swearing contest," not the classic "he said, she said" situation. The jury heard the testimony of the accuser, but not that of the accused. Indeed, had the district attorney presented only the accuser, the verdict might have been otherwise. The prosecution's decision to showcase the accuser's mother - even to the extent of vouching for her in closing argument - was the skull-and-crossbones label on what it was asking the jury to swallow.

    The jurors might have believed a child was sexually assaulted by Michael Jackson. But they surely believed the mother of that child was a professional scam artist, a perjurer and a fraud. (Even the prosecution acknowledged that she was a welfare cheat.) And it is certainly within the realm of possibility that they regarded her as something far worse: a mother who trafficked her own child to a potentially dangerous individual in the hope of a multimillion-dollar payoff.

    How many jurors wondered why that mother had not been indicted for, at minimum, gross neglect? After all, wasn't this case all about the district attorney's office protecting a child?

    Whatever Michael Jackson did or didn't do to the accuser, he didn't lie on the witness stand about it. And some juries take such things very personally. Whatever Michael Jackson may have done, the jury knew he didn't jump out of the back of a van wearing a ski mask and kidnap a victim. The child had been delivered to him. And whatever Michael Jackson may have done, he wasn't wearing a disguise. His most prominent public persona is not that of a musician. (Quick, name his last hit single; extra points for its decade.) Instead, he is best recognized as a bizarre, secretive, hyper-privileged human being who believes that sharing a bed with a little boy is something to which he is entitled.

    Michael Jackson has another reputation, too. It is a matter of record that he has paid many millions to settle allegations of child sexual abuse. The jury heard all about that. Did this convince them that Mr. Jackson was more likely to have committed crimes against the accuser in this case? Or that he was more likely to be the target of an extortionist using her own child as bait?

    So what have we learned? Inherent in American law is the "clean hands doctrine." You cannot commit a bank robbery and then sue your accomplice when he cheats you out of your share of the loot. This doctrine is applied in civil, not criminal, cases. But perhaps we have just witnessed the birth of a new form of jury nullification, one that demands not only innocent victims, but innocent motives for bringing the case.

    Andrew Vachss, a lawyer whose practice is limited to the representation of children, is the author, most recently, of the novel "Two Trains Running."

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    Wily Wench DameGoode will become famous soon enough DameGoode's Avatar
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    It's a trick child abusers have been using for ages. Catch the kid or family doing something wrong, hurt them, and then say, "Go ahead. Tell... remember this... no one is going to believe you... try... see what happens. I'm loved, you're not."

    I think too much was put on the mom and not the kid. or kids.....

    May God keep our children safe, because we don't seem to be doing too well.
    Can I make a decision without knowing the options? Is even making a decision an option?

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    Wily Wench Cassandra from VTRF is on a distinguished road Cassandra from VTRF's Avatar
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    I am so glad that he is out there, protecting children. Him, and his wife, anyway. They make an awesome team.

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