Fans of Michael Jackson — the legendary pop singer whose death has now legally been attributed to the actions of Dr. Murray — whooped and cheered outside the Los Angeles County courthouse. The glee was reminiscent of the jubilation that met the not-guilty verdict in another Jackson-related trial, the 2006 one that acquitted the pop star of child molestation charges. Things were slightly more subdued this time. On this day, no doves were released.
“VICTORY!!!!!!” tweeted Jackson’s sister La Toya after the verdict came down. But somehow, to an outside observer who isn’t a Jackson, victory doesn’t feel like quite the right word for how this situation feels.
If Dr. Murray’s administration of propofol truly was reckless and responsible for the death of one of the most revered entertainers in history — and clearly the L.A. jury thought it was based on the evidence in the case — then justice was served by putting Murray behind bars this afternoon.
Still, this latest chapter in Jackson lore, even with that guilty verdict, has primarily renewed a sense of sorrow about the death of the King of Pop.
Those who followed the past six weeks of trial proceedings saw photos of Jackson’s deceased, frail body, heard stories of his children’s distress during their father’s final minutes on Earth and considered all kinds of evidence that suggested that Murray was cavalier in the way he administered his meds, but also that Jackson was in a desperate enough place to feel compelled to continue taking them.
Those of us not sitting on the jury didn’t learn anything significant or necessary, really. We just got more stark confirmation of something we already knew: that for a variety of reasons — including, but most likely not limited to, a doctor’s lapses in judgment — Michael Jackson didn’t have to die at the age of 50.
As I wrote in another blog post back in September, when the trial first began, this case dredged up a lot of intimate details (see above) that the public probaby did not need to know. Prosecutors obviously felt they had to share those details in order to make their case.
As a result, Jackson’s family and fans got their justice. But they, and we, also got to revisit a death that is undeniably sad, perhaps sadder now that more of the everyday reality associated with it — the dimly lit bedroom where Jackson lay in bed, the sound of his slurred speech on those voicemails — is known.
There was always a mystique around Michael Jackson the Pop Icon. Given his many problems over the years, he arguably lost much of that mystique years ago. But in death, he had gained some of it back, and certainly earned a renewed sense of dignity from a public eager to memorialize him. The trial, in some ways, took away that dignity, reducing Jackson once more from celebrated King to a struggling star who needed heavy medication to get through the day. The justice system might have needed to show us that side of Jackson in order to reach a proper verdict. But I’m still not sure the rest of us needed to witness it.
How do you feel about the Jackson verdict — vindicated, mournful or completely ambivalent? Weigh in by posting a comment or by voting in the online poll below.