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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 June, 2005, 07:44 GMT 08:44 UK
End in sight for Jackson trial
By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Santa Maria

The Michael Jackson child abuse trial has provoked a three-month whirlwind of media activity in Santa Maria, US. It has been called many things - a circus, a freak show - perhaps even an anti-climax.

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson has presented a calm exterior walking in to court daily
But throughout the case the much-anticipated crowds outside court failed to materialise. Fans came and went in small numbers.

For the most part, the singer's behaviour was muted and he managed to stay the course. But the media frenzy continued unabated.

The trial soon developed its daily rituals. As reporters traipsed into court every morning, the fans hurled abuse.

"Inn-no-cent, inn-no-cent," they chanted, every day a little louder.

Certain journalists were singled out as "liars" and some colleagues openly expressed their disdain for having to cover the case at all.

'Pragmatic view'

"It's an enormous exercise in completely indefensible voyeurism just to be here," said Matt Taibbi, a writer from Rolling Stone.

"What this is all about is really just a whole bunch of men and women sitting here waiting for somebody to say the word masturbate in a courtroom.

"It's about; did Michael Jackson stick his hand down some little boy's pants? There's no compelling reason why we should all be here telling the world about this stuff."

Others took a more pragmatic view.

"It's fascinating," said Jane Velez-Mitchell, a correspondent for the US TV show Celebrity justice.

"It's been a really interesting life experience for me personally, as a human being. I think I've learned more than anything else that happiness is an inside job."

A hardcore of fans turned up regularly to the trial
Media coverage of the trial has been nothing if not predictable. The press seats were overflowing on the days key witnesses appeared on the stand.

The biggest flurries of activity occurred when Gavin Arvizo and other alleged victims of Michael Jackson told their stories. The media devoured every piece of graphic detail.

Another wave of interest occurred when celebrities such as Macaulay Culkin and chat show host Larry King appeared briefly in the courtroom.

Freak factor

"People are fascinated but they don't want to admit they're fascinated because of the 'ick factor'," said Ms Velez-Mitchell.

"Parents especially don't want to discuss it at the dinner table in front of their kids. There's a certain grossness to the allegations, to the behaviour, but there's a part of us that's fascinated by the freak factor."

Even on the days when the star attraction was nothing more than a ream of telephone records, America's cable networks did not let up.

"We have lots of television shows that need to fill lots of time and there are lots of pundits that need to jibber jabber endlessly and fill that time," explained J Randy Taraborrelli, Michael Jackson's biographer, who is also covering the trial as an analyst for CBS News.

"One of the best ways to fill it is to speculate about the guilt or innocence of people who are on trial," he added.

"You can't get away from it in this country. Every channel you turn to somebody is expressing their own personal views about Michael Jackson's guilt or innocence."

I have to come clean as well. For me, the trial has been as much a media merry-go-round as anything.

I have been jabbering on countless US TV shows - Court TV, Celebrity Justice and CNN - as well as the BBC.

Celebrity culture

It has been a new and sobering experience. Getting into spats on live television, about the relevance or otherwise of Janet Arvizo's full body-wax, has been a novelty, but it is sometimes extremely difficult to justify all the vacuous talk.

Peter Bowes
The end is in sight for Peter Bowes
"If there's a Shakespearian theme to this whole thing is it the way the celebrity culture, which we're seeing with the media here, devoured Michael Jackson as a young man and turned him into this completely bizarre character that he is here," said Mr Taibbi.

"Now they're coming in to finish him off at the end. But that's not why everyone's here - to examine the effects of celebrity culture - they're here to peer into somebody's bedroom window."

It is time to move on.

Michael Jackson looks tired as judgement looms

Michael Jackson on trial

Michael Jackson Jackson show
How the star's style has changed during lengthy trial









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