Tuesday, June 14, 2005

My Token Michael Jackson Post

I've been resisting, but here it is. Having had some specific experience with this kind of case, I feel compelled to share.

First, to acknowledge: no, we shouldn't be paying as much attention as we are; yes, it is inevitable that we do so.

What struck me about the verdict is, in the end, how ordinary it was. From what I heard of juror comments (and I haven't exactly been seeking them out), the jury arrived at its decision in much the same way juries generally evaluate child sex abuse cases. I spent two years prosecuting these cases exclusively, and another couple of years evaluating them and working with law enforcement. Some basic patterns emerge.

1. Reasonable doubt becomes paramount. If you think about it, if person X say "yes" and person Y says "no," you almost by definition have a reasonable doubt. Unless you can corroborate X's story, Y's no will be enough to throw the verdict. This is particularly true in a child sex case. In the abstract people hate child molesters; in the courtroom, juries hate convicting them.

2. Juries don't like teenagers. MJ's victim was 13 at the alleged time, but 15 on the stand. By and large if I had a choice between persauding a jury to believe a teenager about sex or persuading them to believe a 3-time convicted perjurer, I'd take my chances with the perjurer.

3. Juries hate the lack of physical evidence. This is true now more than ever, thanks to the CSI shows. One way this plays out is that the jury will "punish" the victim for not going to the authorities sooner so that the evidence could be preserved. In this case it wouldn't matter as Michael wouldn't have left fingerprint's on the boy's penis, but try convincing a jury of that.

4. Juries dislike crazy moms almost as much as child molesters like them. I have to be careful here; I am not saying that if, God forbid, your child has been molested, you are crazy. But if you are crazy, your child has a much better chance of getting molested. Pervs seem to gravitate toward moms with serious issues. Like the sort of mom who lets her son sleep with a grown man who has been twice accused of molesting in the past. Juries do not like women like this victim's mom and have been known to punish them with acquittals. This, to me, is the best explanation for the acquittals on the lesser counts involving alcohol and porn. It sounded like those counts were well proven but the jury was not going to give mom the satisfaction.

Finally, lets have none of the he's-a-boy-in-a-man's-body crap, OK? He has kids, he has ex-wives, he has a porno stash. His sleepovers were on a whole other level.