I have a bad feeling that the jury is going to come back with their verdict sometime today. I know you’re probably thinking, Why is that bad? Well, it is going to be bad for me in that case because I have to be at work all day and won’t get to catch anything live! I personally wouldn’t mind a Tuesday verdict, since I’m off on Tuesdays, but that’s a long time to stretch out the pins and needles just for my sake (lol).
Anyway, we know there are only two, or possibly, three ways this can go: “Guilty,” “Not Guilty,” or a hung jury. Regardless of the outcome, it’s going to be very emotional for everyone. I have a feeling we’re all going to be very elated, or very outraged, depending. In anticipation, I’m creating this post, a place where we can share those emotions-to celebrate, or to vent, or just to cry on each others’ shoulders, depending on how it all goes down. Please post all verdict-related comments, thoughts, and reactions here. If the filter holds your comments, I will release them as soon as I get home tonight. And if the verdict comes in today, I will join you in either celebration or commiseration as soon as I can!
ETA: Guilty! I was almost tempted to post one of Murray’s handcuff pics here this morning, in celebration. But just as I was about to do so, I saw this from CNN. Com:
Rowlands said that Murray, who was mostly expressionless during the verdict, looked at his daughter who was in tears when he was being handcuffed at the defense table.
Having gone through this very traumatic experience myself with recently having to see a loved one handcuffed-and knowing how that feels-I just couldn’t. So please forgive me for not going there. I am happy about the verdict, but out of respect for Murray’s children who have done nothing wrong, I decided against using those photos just to gloat. It is enough for me to know justice has been served, even though the reality is that this verdict is more symbolic justice than actual justice. Still, there’s no denying, there is finally some sense of closure today.
In the last few days I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. A relatively small-but seemingly growing-percentage of people who call themselves Michael Jackson “fans” seem to be in support of Murray’s acquittal. Note the quotes around the word “fans.” I’m having a personally hard time getting my hands around this.
But I think a lot of it may have to do with recent comments from former MJ bodyguards Javon Beard and Bill Whitfield.
To paraphrase some of what Beard and Whitfield have said, they basically feel that Michael wouldn’t have wanted Murray to be on trial, would not want him charged in his death, and certainly would not like the private details of his life being made into a public spectacle (this last part I agree with, but as I’ve acknowledged myself here, it’s part of the price for justice in this case). They contend that Murray was a good guy, a friend whom Michael obviously trusted. They also cotend that Murray would not have killed “his paycheck.” This I don’t get, since Murray isn’t being charged with murder, but rather involuntary manslaughter. Translation: No, he didn’t INTEND to kill his paycheck. But he did.
Anyway, here is a very big problem. Once you have MJ “insiders” coming forth with this kind of talk, it creates a sheep effect. You will have fans who actually agree that, indeed, this must have been how Michael felt. This is the sort of thing that also leads to division within the fan base, which has already happened far too many times.
Well, let’s put this in perspective. It’s also irritatingly “sheep”-like when we allow ourselves to get caught up in this view that we are supposed to just automatically and blindly go along with anything we believe Michael would have thought-let alone when it’s only someone telling us what he thought. The only person who really knows what Michael Jackson thought-or would think now-is Michael Jackson. And he’s not here to tell us.
Michael probably did think very highly of Murray and perhaps even considered him a friend. That’s why the guy had his $150,000 -a-month position in the first place. But the idea of Murray as Michael’s trusted “friend” goes right smack to the heart of this whole case, which is what the prosecution has argued all along: Murray violated the sacred doctor/patient relationship when he allowed himself to cross that boundary and become a “friend.” And even the word “friend” I use loosely because, frankly, I’m not in any way convinced that Murray was a friend to Michael, though I’m sure he did a good job of convincing Michael that he was his friend.
I think where a lot of this is stemming from is the notion of conspiracy theories and the knowledge that Murray is not “the whole picture,” that the culpability for Michael Jackson’s death goes far beyond just Murray. There are some who sincerely believe that Murray is just a sacrifical lamb, being sent to slaughter for all of the other accountable vultures and enablers in Michael’s life. Aphrodite Jones wrote a great blog on just that topic for Investigation Discovery:
This is something I have never disputed. I even said that I agree with Chernoff’s closing statement that Murray was simply a “little fish in a big, dirty pond.” And, yes, I do feel bad in a way that this one man is being made the scapegoat when there are a lot of others accountable as well. But we have to remember what this charge is really all about. It is about who/what led directly to Michael’s death on the morning of June 25th, 2009. Not who or what may have led him up to that morning.
As I’ve said before, accountability has to begin somewhere! In an ideal situation, every single doctor who ever prescribed drugs that he/she knew Michael didn’t need; every single shady character and leech surrounding him who enabled, or turned a blind eye when they knew he needed help, or who may have plotted against him or undermined his health and well being, or who added to the stress that exacerbated his insomnia, etc etc etc, would be on trial. But we all know this is not an ideal world, and it’s not going to happen.
So is it fair to make this one man, Conrad Murray, the so called sacrifical lamb? This is what the bodygurads seem to be questioning. But questioning whether this is fair is a flawed arguement that I fear some fans are starting to buy into. Before you allow yourself to get snared in this line of thinking, consider a few things:
Dr. Steven Shaffer expertly outlined no less than 17 egregious violations of the standard of care in regards to Murray’s “treatment” of Michael Jackson. By now, we know most of them by rote, but let’s have a little memory lesson here. We know as fact-not rumor or hearsay, but as fact-that Murray:
Voluntarily administered propofol-a dangerous anesthetic-in a home setting
Did not bother to use the proper monitoring equipment
Abandoned his patient
Was on the phone, texting, and sending emails for over 45 minutes
Delayed calling 911 (for what purpose, whether to hide evidence or what, we can only speculate)
Failed to perform basic CPR
Lied to paramedics about what he had given Michael, at a crucial time when this knowledge might have made a difference in life or death
Lied to medical staff at UCLA
And these are just the basic eight violations that were most glaringly egregious; it does not even include the many more technical violations of the standard of care that were violated.
Now, you can look at any one of those violations and make the arguement: But for this, Michael Jackson might still be alive!
This is what we have to keep in mind before we get too caught up in “sacrificial lamb” theories. Murray may have been Michael’s friend; he might even be a good guy but for making some very stupid, blundering mistakes on the morning of June 25th, and maybe trying too hard to keep his employer happy. But none of this absolves his guilt. Sacrifical lamb or not, the above violations of the standard of care are not disputable. They are fact. Those “blundering mistakes” cost MJ his life.
Murray may well be just a little fish in a big, dirty pond, but this goes back to what I said here a few days ago: Let’s not forget, he’s still one of the fish. And he is the fish whose irresponsible actions led directly to Michael’s death.
Accountability has to begin somewhere. If not Murray-the man directly responsible-then who?
To adress a few other issues and misguided myths head on:
That Murray Was Michael’s Friend, And He Wouldn’t Want His Friend On Trial:
Yes, well let’s not forget that whatever Michael thought of Conrad Murray, it would be what he thought of him up to and UNTIL the morning of June 25th, 2009. If Michael could communicate with us now-with the ability of hindsight from the grave-would he still feel the same way about the man who has taken him away from his children, his family, his fans, his comeback, his dreams for the future? We all know Michael had a very forgiving heart, so who knows what he might say, but I honestly think if death provides 20/20 hindsight and he is aware of all the details we know now, he just might feel very differently towards his former friend.
That Michael Wouldn’t Be Happy About Having The Private Details Of His Life Paraded On Trial:
Well, no one is arguing that. Just as I’m sure he wasn’t happy to have every detail of his private life made public in 1993, or 2005. He wouldn’t be happy about this trial taking place, but I’m sure he also isn’t happy to be dead. Michael was an intensely private man, but the paradox is that he was also a public figure, and one of the most intensely scrutinized public figures of all time. There were many, MANY things Michael was not happy about being made public over the course of his career. Even now, I blush at some of the details I know that, quite frankly, I probably shouldn’t. Michael would not have been happy for us to know what kind of porn he read, or what he used to treat his vitiligo, or that his penis was uncircumsiced and splotchy. He wouldn’t have wanted us to know that he liked his wine and occasional whisky, or even that he was a bit of a hoarder and messy packrat (something Michael and I nevertheless share in common, haha). For that matter, I’m sure Michael wouldn’t have exactly been thrilled with Beard and Whitfield going public on Good Morning, America about his having romantic trysts in the back of the limo, or having tantrums and throwing cell phones out the window! No, there are a lot of things Michael wouldn’t want us to know but have nevertheless become common, public knowledge. It’s sad that his life and privacy were violated so often and in so many ways. But it is what it is. This is exactly what I meant when I said that justice for Michael will not come without scars. No one ever said it wouldn’t involve some pain, discomfort, and sacrifice. But what is the alternative? No justice at all? Where do we make that stand, and say, okay, it may involve taking some lumps, but we need to do that because a death has occurred that didn’t need to happen? Nothing could have been more painful; more degrading; more humiliating; more downright dehumanizing than what was done to Michael’s private life during that circus of a trial in 2005. I honestly think if Michael was here, he would say, “I survived a lot worse than this.” Of course, the ideal situation would have been for Murray to just plead guilty and save all the trouble and heartache. But no, that would have been too easy.
That Michael Trusted Conrad Murray:
Yes, well Michael trusted a lot of people. That was part of his problem. He also trusted Martin Bashir, Evan Chandler, the Arvizos, Schmuley Boteach, and a lot of others he should never have trusted. In fact, looking at the long list of people Michael “trusted” in his life should be evidence enough to shoot that arguement down in flames.
I just had to say this because I am personally appalled that there are people who call themselves fans that are actively supporting Murray’s acquittal. It is disturbing on so many levels. If you’re a fan who thinks Murray should be acquitted, even despite his actions that we know he committed-what are you saying? That it’s all okay; all is forgiven? Conrad Murray never once played it straight with us; he never played it straight to Michael’s family, to the paramedics working feverishly to save him, or to anybody. What do we owe this man now? Seriously.
Well, maybe this is a good time to share a dream I had awhile back. I dreamed that Murray was acquitted. In the wake of his acquittal, he started touring the country, performing MJ songs. Yes, that’s right. In my dream, Murray could no longer make a living as a doctor, so he was touring as a Michael Jackson tribute artist! (Go figure, lol). But the most disturbing part of the dream was this: There were fans actually buying tickets to his shows, and cheering him.
When I woke up, my immediate thought was, Thank God, that was just a dream! A silly nightmare that would NEVER happen in real life.
Now I’m starting to wonder.
ETA: I do want to stress that this seems to be only a very small minority of fans, but it’s just something that I felt very strongly about after having seen Whitfield’s and Beard’s comments, and some fan comments in support of their position. This is a time when we all need to come together, put aside all other disputes, and pray for justice. I realize a conviction for Murray is only a kind of partial justice, but we still need very much to be united on this front. Remember what we’ve learned and what has been testified these past six weeks: Murray bears responsibility in this, and he deserves a conviction.
I never wanted to see Michael Jackson dead. I was one of those that always shuddered at the thought that there were autopsy and hospital post-mortem photos “out there.” Like many, I feared and dreaded the inevitable day those photos would be leaked. There were rumors of tabloids and other parties offering up to half a million for them. For over two years, an excellent job had been done at keeping those private and under seal, as they should be. But like the white elephant in the room, we always knew they existed, and that one day…
Of course, we now know that even the notorious “ambulance photo” was actually a post-mortem photo. None of us asked to see that, either, but it was splashed on magazine and tabloid covers all over the world. It was bad enough to think that this was the last photo ever taken of Michael alive . But now we know better. Michael was dead from the time Murray found him not breathing. He was dead long before the paramedics arrived. So in that sense, the world had already seen Michael Jackson in death. But maybe it’s just that a hastily snapped, paparazzi photo isn’t the same as looking at a graphic, coroner investigator photo of him lying on a hospital gurney-or worse yet, on the autopsy table.
I knew, of course, that the jury would probably see these photos. Like many, however, I wasn’t quite expecting that they would be displayed on TV. Chalk it up to the pros and cons of having live TV cameras in a court room. We can’t have our cake and eat it, too. Allowing cameras and a live broadcast feed from the court room means we see it all, just as the jury does. Warts and all.
I understand why the prosecution wanted the photos shown to the jury. What is inexcusable is how the media immediatly jumped the bandwagon; within minutes those photos were posted on TMZ, The LA Times, in fact, every media outlet I can think of. Haters tweeted the autopsy photo to Michael’s children. I have already seen many of the inevitable, horrid photoshops, the kind that sick individuals with apparently nothing better to do with their lives, like to create. Even in death, Michael has been allowed no dignity, no privacy. Even many of his closest family members refused to view him post-mortem. I know that both Katherine and Joe have stated they did not view him. I believe his brother Tito said he chose not to view him. As Latoya described in her book, this was one reason why she was elected as caretaker of her brother’s remains. Latoya, always the most giddy and seemingly “airheaded” of the Jackson family, proved surprisingly to be the strongest when it came to some of the most gruesome post-mortem tasks involving her brother’s remains. It was Latoya who took Michael’s children in to see their father one last time, so that they might have that closure. She was the one who picked out his burial outfit. In her latest book, one particularly gut-wrenching scene is her description of a few days before Michael’s entombment, when a lab tech, photographer, and police officer said they would need a palm print and more hair samples as part of the ongoing death investigation. Literally propping her dead brother’s body up in a chair, she describes going to great pains to make sure the body was draped with a sheet and covered at all times throughout the ordeal. Why? Because she didn’t trust the photographer; didn’t trust that any photo snapped in the name of “official business” might not somehow find its way to the front page of The National Enquirer!
So one can only imagine how painful it must be now, to know those post-mortem photos are out there for the world to ogle.
Celebrity autopsy photos are big business. In fact, all you have to do is a quick google search for autopsies, and you will find sites that link to the autopsy photos of Marilyn Monroe, Kennedy, and Tupac Shakur, among others. I will admit, I have looked at those photos. Like many humans, I am naturally curious. It’s the same instinctive compulsion that makes us look when we pass the scene of an accident, even though we know we shouldn’t. I will look, but then feel guilty, knowing such photos are the ultimate invasion of someone’s privacy. After all, we are never more vulnerable, more piteously exposed, than in death.
But there are two thoughts of mind on this. Death is also a very natural process. I have always had this sort of clinical ability to detach myself and be able to view a deceased body in, I suppose, the same way a person in the medical field would. Perhaps I’m one of those who would have made a good doctor or mortician, had I been so inclined. It doesn’t “freak me out” to see a dead body. I have seen many of my own loved ones in death, and it has always brought me closure. As some will say, it is only a body, after all. The person is no longer there.
However, I could never quite bring myself to apply that to Michael. Michael Jackson-the most vibrant, dancing, dynamic performer of our time-was not someone I wanted to see dead. I did not seek to see him in death. But the world splashed those photos all over the place, and left us with little choice. That day, when that photo was put before the jury and in front of the TV cameras, we were a captive audience-in the worst sense of that word. The true definition of a “captive audience” is akin to someone tied and roped to a chair, forced to look because they have no other alternative. In that sense, yes, we were a captive audience to something most of us never wanted to see.
No, I didn’t seek those images. But here I have to confess-once they were out there, I did look. But in this case, it was not the same kind of morbid curiosity with which I had looked at other dead images of celebrities. This was something else. It felt intensely personal somehow. Maybe, in a way, I felt like I was finally having my own sense of closure. I will never post or link to those photos, and really have no desire to look at them again. But having seen them, I want to try to describe some of the emotions they envoked-good and bad.
On many forums, I have seen discussions where fans confessed they looked at the photos, even studied them, but then admitted they felt overwhelmingly guilty. The guilt is understandable, because we all know how Michael felt about his privacy, and we do recognize that this is an invasion. But remember, we didn’t ask for these images to be thrust on us. Let’s not beat ourselves up. As I’ve already stated, curiosity is a natural human inclination. Michael himself was fascinated with such things. In Latoya’s first book, she described Michael one day bringing a human brain that he had managed to get from a lab, home to his bedroom. “Don’t tell mother!” he said. He was fascinated with it; wanted to study and dissect it, she said. There was nothing ‘strange” about that. He was a kid, and a boy’s nature is usually to be fascinated with “gross” things. If I know Michael, he would have gotten a laugh out of chasing Latoya and Janet around the house with that brain, giggling as they screeched and screamed.
As for the autopsy photo, I’m not even going there. That was just too much. The hospital gurney photo was sad, but to me, not gruesome or morbid. When I first saw it, I cried and had to gather myself for about five minutes. But the more I looked at it, the more I found a kind of peaceful beauty to it. Let me explain, because this is hard.
First of all, let me just say, there’s nothing beautiful about the fact that he was lying there dead, far too soon, and for reasons that are just too stupid for words. But it gave me great comfort to see that in death, he was not gross; he was as beautiful as he had always been. I have never been one of those fans who go around describing Michael in deified terms-he was not an angel, or a saint, or a god to me. He was a human being, with all the flaws and frailities of a human being. But when I saw that photo, I couldn’t help but compare it to some of the paintings I have seen of dead saints. There was an ethereal quality about it, but at the same time, something that was heartbreakingly vulnerable and sad. As I looked at his arms, so thin and stilled upon the bedsheet, gauzed with tape. I couldn’t help but think how those arms wanted to hug his children one last time; I thought of him having to go alone, to face the other side without them. I thought of how many hugs those arms had given. I thought of all the pain he had endured in his last years, and that now no one could hurt him, ever again. Call me crazy, if you want. But I just wanted to reach through that photo and stroke his hair and place a parting kiss on his cheek. I wanted to say, thank you for everything you gave us, and now, sleep well. Remember those final lines from Hamlet?
Good night, sweet prince
May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest
I guess, really, this is all just a long-winded way of saying, after two years of dread, I have now seen Michael in death. And really, it wasn’t so bad for me (I am speaking from purely personal experience, of course). It gave me peace and closure. Hopefully, no more photos will be leaked, but as many have said, the damage has already been done. Despite numerous complaints, TMZ has refused to remove the autopsy photo. I suspect it generates far too many hits for them to even consider taking it down. But we knew long ago that Harry Levin has no decency, so what else is new? I often go back and think about how hard most of us worked to get that Discovery channel reenactment of the autopsy cancelled. It almost seems in vain now. We instigated that campaign to preserve Michael’s dignity, only to have it violated anyway. The only saving grace, and only difference in this case, is the knowledge that at least-hopefully, this was done in the name of justice, rather than ratings. But however you slice it, the result is the same.
But at this point it doesn’t do much good to get our blood pressure worked up over what can’t be changed. The photos are “out there” now, and will be from here on out, no matter how hard we may work to avoid them. From my standpoint, I’ve simply decided to “own it,” as they say. I have seen the photos, I looked at them; I have made my peace with them. They are not gruesome. They are Michael. And yes, he was as beautiful in death as in life. Death could not take that away. As the old saying goes, once you’ve been faced with something you feared or dreaded, it no longer controls you. It’s like, okay, it’s happened, it’s over, take a deep breath. It wasn’t so bad. Much of this entire trail has been that way for me, to tell the truth. Thankfully, we’re almost to the light at the end of the tunnel.