by Debra Opri – Attorney and Legal Analyst

Flashback! 1993. Michael Jackson is on television. He’s giving an interview. He is proclaiming his innocence regarding allegations of child molestation. Shortly thereafter, there is a settlement of megabucks – we are talking millions – and no charges are ever filed, no testimony ever secured; only innuendo. Much innuendo. And the ever so slight beginnings of a downward spiral of a celebrity… in the media. It would be years later that we would learn Michael didn’t know of the settlement and was later advised it was a good ‘business’ decision, by his ‘closest’ advisors.

The years since 1993 have not been out of the ordinary for Michael. From what we know, he has continued to live his same lifestyle. He has performed. He has continued to make money, and to spend it. And his desire to hold on to the innocence of youth has become soured by a media intent on turning it into innocence lost at a price.

Michael Jackson stayed in the press, but the press was not great anymore. The media presented this icon as a has been performer without a hit for quite awhile. Everything he did received a negative interpretation. He gave interviews – it was only because he was trying to resurrect a career. He was accused of being difficult. Of not paying bills. And there was media coverage for all the lawsuits. A breach of contract action generated media coverage the world over when he sat on the witness stand and waived at the audience. He was ridiculed for his lavish spending… so much so that a BBC special highlighted his spending sprees and his Neverland world… to the point where another allegation of criminal misconduct blanketed by continued whisperings of financial difficulty surfaced and now remain in the public eye.

It was November 2003. The world sat transfixed as the television aired into the night the Neverland ‘raid’ as the press called it, when dozens of Santa Barbara Sheriff’s vehicles rushed Neverland, entering and surrounding the property that belonged to Michael Jackson. We sat in awe of how one very unusual and famous celebrity home became a beehive of activity for law enforcement starting at 8:30 a.m. in the morning and not ending until nearly 11 p.m. that same night. As we watched, maybe… perhaps… we remembered another day in 1994 when we followed a white Bronco carrying OJ Simpson into the annals of legal and media history… a day when we all saw the meteoric fall and disgrace of that other celebrity… with the help of a television crew and a willing District Attorney.

No matter what happens in the Michael Jackson trial, you can be certain that the media has found a willing public for this seedy side of life…. the criminal justice system. It’s not an easy world, and the inside of the criminal courts building is not the inside of anything you would like to ever see. It is ugly. It is desperate and it is the worst place a person can wind up. No matter whether the verdict is guilty or innocent. The dirt remains. And there are scars.

The media, according to ‘sources close to the case’, would have you believe that Michael Jackson’s decline and fall began many years ago. Before even 1993. They have presented an image of a man who wants to live like a boy, have predicated his lifestyle on his own questionable sexual history, such that it would only have been a matter of time before his own life’s choices turned him in. Maybe the criminal nightmares he has endured – and perhaps caused by his own lack of understanding of the ‘grownup’ way of thinking – are now becoming a full flame from the embers that Jackson kept burning all these years, by his allowing the media a glimpse into his world without questioning it’s motives. Maybe, in the end, the media took advantage of Michael Jackson’s innocence and naive nature.
From the courtroom to your living room, this has been another edition of THE OPRI OPINION.