'Bout darn time.
We already waited a week when Michael Jackson got what seemed to be the flu. Now MJ was M.I.A. once again, at a hospital in the nearby town of Santa Ynez, getting treated for what his attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. called a “serious back problem.”
Judge Rodney Melville bought none of it. He threatened to revoke Jackson's $3 million bail and toss the King of Pop in the hoosegow if he didn't appear in the hour.
Right on, judge.
Melville has an unenviable task. He has to keep this trial from becoming an uncontrollable three-ring act. He has a defendant who's made his livelihood by being a spectacle — on and off stage. A defendant who, in response to being arraigned, thought it'd be fun to dance atop an SUV. (He also showed up 20 minutes late for that, prompting a rebuke that perhaps Melville figured would set the singer straight. No such luck.)
What part of this doesn't Jackson get? Sure, no one wants to face their accuser — a boy who Jackson took under his wing and probably feels betrayed by. Sure, it's a stressful moment. But Jackson has known for months now that this moment would come.
Jackson's spokeswoman insisted "he knows the seriousness of this."
Really? A less wealthy defendant probably wouldn't have been able to pay bail, which is the only thing that kept Jackson out of jail to begin with. They would be scrambling to change out of an orange prison jumpsuit into whatever court clothes could be scrounged up by a harried, overworked defense lawyer. They would not be passing the night at their louche 2,600-acre ranch before getting an escorted ride to court, complete with umbrella-wielding bodyguards.
A lawyer's burdenYou had to feel a bit sorry for Mesereau as he stood in the glare of TV lenses Thursday morning, chatting nervously into his cell phone.
He's done an exceptional job this week of poking holes in district attorney Tom Sneddon's case — only to have all that progress unraveled by a defendant whose antics are, frankly, a nose-thumbing to his legal team, the court and the jury. Not exactly how I'd act toward the people who'll determine whether I go to jail or not.
As the final moments of the hour Melville provided for MJ to appear ticked away — as the on-air countdown clocks reminded us — we watched tensely as the black SUVs rolled up. Jackson stumbled out (in pajama bottoms, no less!) and hobbled into the courthouse, several minutes late.
It seems the judge will give Jackson another pass this time. But regardless of guilt or innocence, maybe MJ should face another stint behind bars while this trial unfolds — because he just doesn't seem to get it. If there ever was evidence to bolster the theory that Jackson is divorced from reality, living his life in his own little Neverland as a never-grown-up boy, we saw it today.
Even if you believe Jackson's claims that he was roughhoused during his last stint in jail after his 2003 arrest, neither his fame nor his clearly fragile mental state excuse him from the fact that he's a 46-year-old adult facing criminal charges.
After all, Martha Stewart, no shrinking violet herself in the ego department, knew to stick to a judge's clock, show up and behave herself. Even those aging New York wiseguys who wheeled along their oxygen tanks made their court dates.
A lesson to learnSo perhaps an object lesson in the realities of the criminal justice system would help the pop star understand that a courtroom isn't a balcony in Berlin, and all the adoring fans in the world don't mean that you supersede the legal process. This is People v. Jackson, not the “Dangerous” tour, and the judge who presides over your fate isn't an opening act.
“We don't want to jump to conclusions,” Jackson family friend and MSNBC analyst Stacy Brown told his on-air counterparts.
Oh, yes we do. Maybe Jackson has a bad back, maybe he needed medication, maybe he needed to go to the hospital. Melville has shown in the past that he's not uncaring to medical problems — he did have a chat with Jackson's doctor after the flu episode, no? — and it would have been easy enough for Jackson's camp to make a single phone call.
But the look of surprise (and maybe a bit of disgust) on Mesereau's face is a good sign the veteran lawyer can't control his client.
Maybe a bit of time behind bars will help punctuate a lesson that Jackson seems thoroughly unable to absorb.