SANTA MARIA, Calif. — They come from down the road and overseas. They dance to Michael Jackson’s songs, write their own lyrics proclaiming his innocence, date each other, even lose their jobs for the cause.
A verdict in the Jackson case will end not only the circus-like trial but also the noisy and colorful gatherings of fans who stand outside court to shout their support for the pop star.
It has been a 4½-month-long gathering as quirky as Jackson himself.
On Tuesday, as the jury completed its second full of deliberations without a verdict, 100 fans milled about, sometimes singing along to Jackson songs from a boom box and hoisting signs such as one that read, “Don’t Mess With MJ Fans.”
Others chanted “Michael! Innocent!” One woman led a line of about a dozen children dressed in black pants, white shirts and black ties who performed a song that included the line, “We came to support Michael Jackson.”
Fariba Garmani, 44, opened a box of white homing pigeons as fans chanted “Innocent” and set the birds free. She hoped to do it again when the verdicts come.
“They symbolize freedom so with each innocent verdict I’m hoping one will be released,” she said.
Followers of the entertainer “meet some wonderful people,” said fan and London resident Sudhir Kumra. “You get to meet some scary people as well. But that’s Michael Jackson, and he draws people from all over.”
Kumra, 37, said he shelled out more than $700 for a last-minute flight to California.
Nearly every day when court recessed, many of the fans piled into cars and sped 30 miles to Jackson’s Neverland ranch to greet the entertainer’s convoy of SUVs. Jackson would wave and sometimes stop to say hello.
Fans gather to pray
After the first full day of deliberations ended Monday afternoon, about 50 Jackson backers made the trip to Neverland’s well-guarded gates, which are adorned with red paper hearts and red and white bunting.
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Messages of support are written on hearts tacked to the estate’s low wood fences. Kim Newell of Melbourne, Australia, wrote: “Thank you for everything. Vindication is nearly here.”
A few dozen fans held hands in a circle and prayed in the driveway.
“He will not lose, not one thing that he has worked for,” said Goward Horton, a 24-year-old who led the prayer. “Not this ranch, not his children, not anything. The devil will be defeated.”
Later, an SUV with doors open blasted “Thriller,” “Billie Jean” and “Smooth Criminal” as Horton and others mimicked Jackson’s dance moves on the winding two-lane road lined with horse ranches and green and yellow hills.
One of those watching was Rebecca Reza, 25, who leads a Jackson fan club. She drove 18 hours from El Paso, Texas, after taking off from her job. Her boss found out about her secret obsession after a photo of her in California turned up in the media.
“I won’t find out till tomorrow whether I still have a job,” she said. Previously she was fired from her job at a sandwich shop because she attended Jackson’s January 2004 arraignment.
Jackson fan Faisal Malik, a 30-year-old cancer researcher from Los Angeles, said he made new friends from France, Holland and Spain during his once-a-week visits to the courthouse.
When he wasn’t sketching the back of Jackson’s head after winning a lottery for one of 45 courtroom seats reserved for the public, he sat with fans and chatted.
“Sometimes we talk about the trial and sometimes we talk about our own lives,” he said, “because we do have lives other than this.”
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.