Dispatches From the Michael Jackson Trial

The Prosecution Puts MJ's Mom to Sleep
Notes from different corners of the world.
May 3 2005 1:27 AM

Dispatches From the Michael Jackson Trial


Click image to expand. MJ, aka "Fred Macy"
MJ, aka "Fred Macy"

7:10 a.m.: Gosh, it's good to be back here in Jacko-ville. I didn't realize how much I'd missed this place.

Seth Stevenson Seth Stevenson

Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

I missed you, courtroom artist, wheeling around your big case of art supplies. Happy sketching today!

I missed you, TV sound guys, drinking your coffee behind the satellite trucks. You look so bored, with your boom mics hoisted on your shoulders. So bored, in fact, that I swear you've been practicing—standing in front of mirrors with your boom mics, trying out disinterested facial expressions.

And I missed you most of all, crazy fans outside the gate. You've brought a whole bunch of "We Love Michael" balloons with you this morning. But not helium balloons. Your regular balloons just fall at your feet and roll around aimlessly. As you gather together to start an impromptu shouting session, I get a warm feeling inside.

It feels like coming home.

8:29 a.m.: Michael arrives in the courtroom, looking sharp: The armband is hunter green; the face is toothpaste white.

Wow. This is the easily the whitest I've seen him yet. As he takes his seat, I look for a mushroom cloud of face powder to poof toward the ceiling. I can't quite make it out from my vantage point, but I'm certain it was there.

8:47 a.m.: The prosecution calls Detective Craig Bonner. Thus begins an entire day of reviewing telephone records.

You may recall that I previously sat through a full day of fingerprint testimony and considered it tedious. I'd like to revise that assessment.

Because first of all, those fingerprints were found on the pages (sometimes on the centerfolds!) of hardcore porn mags. So, for that whole day we were staring at filthy, filthy smut. By court order! In retrospect, I had no right to complain about this.

Also in the course of that day, I learned a little bit about modern fingerprint science. Which was interesting. By contrast, there is nothing at all interesting about telephone records. There's no "science" involved in examining a Verizon bill. And—unlike fingerprints—official telephone records are rarely superimposed on top of a nasty, spread-eagle beaver shot.

I guess what I'm saying is that the testimony today is deathly boring. For hours on end, we just look at lists of phone calls. The detective describes when each call was made, where it was made from, whose phone was called, and how long the connection lasted. We are given no context. The detective doesn't know (he can't know) what was said in these calls. Or, for that matter, whether anything was said at all. These calls may have consisted entirely of burping noises, as far as he can tell.

Eventually the prosecution hauls out a few charts that visually represent the calls. They're hoping to illustrate some greater point—I'm not sure what it is, but it seems to have something to do with the conspiracy charges. The lawyers never really clear this up. The charts have cute little phone icons, labeled things like "Neverland Ranch," with lines drawn between the phones to link them together. They look a lot like that wall-chart in The L-Word—the one that shows which lesbians have had sex with whom.

But even though they're forcing us to pay attention to all this phone record stuff, the prosecution can't prove that Michael Jackson was talking, or listening, on any of these calls. Not a single one. And since the case is against Michael Jackson, well ... that's a problem.

(I'd like to pause here to clarify something I mentioned a moment ago. Yes, I watch The L-Word. Only because it's a fascinating cultural touchpoint. I thought I should explain that.)

9:03 a.m.: A bill from the Turnberry Isle Resort & Club is projected on the wall of the courtroom. In addition to offering more phone records, it seems to show that Michael Jackson stayed in a suite that cost $3,700 per night. The tax alone on the room was $481 a night—which is more than I've ever spent on a room, never mind the tax. For this kind of money, I hope you get awesome toiletries.

More interesting details from the bill: MJ appears to have registered under the pseudonym "Fred Macy." I Googled it to look for some sort of provenance, but all I could find was a character by that same name in Shadow of the Thin Man. Could MJ really be a big fan of William Powell and Myrna Loy? Of dry banter and stylish crime-solving? If so, he should have named his chimp Asta instead of Bubbles.

Man, I am losing it here. Someone make the phone testimony stop. On top of all the snoozy material, the prosecution has unleashed its most annoying attorney—a dude by the name of Mag Nicola, who sports, in addition to this unlikely name, a high, reedy voice and unacceptably smirky manner. Everyone in the courtroom is sick of this guy. When will it end?

2:30 p.m.: Mercifully, it ends.

2:39 p.m.: Outside the courtroom, a reporter shouts out one question for Michael as he walks to his SUV:

"Michael, how are you feeling today?"

Michael waggles his hand in a comme ci comme ça gesture. "Hmmmm," he says, "a little better."

2:41 p.m.: I listen to Jim Moret (of Inside Edition) give his stand-up report for the media pool camera. He confirms my feelings: The prosecution is whiffing badly. They're scheduled to rest their case tomorrow and thus should be building to a crescendo of indisputable evidence and clear-as-day conclusions. Instead, they've bogged us down in a mire of phone records.

Moret says he saw Michael's mother, Katherine Jackson (who is without doubt the classiest presence of the entire trial—always beautifully dressed and unfailingly pleasant), nod off a few times. He even saw some journalists nod off.

Ahem. It was only for a second. And I was jet-lagged. And it wasn't just me—other people fell asleep, too. And yes, I woke up with one of those freaky shudder-spasms, but I think it was mostly contained and unnoticeable. I promise I'll do better tomorrow.


Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.


How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

How the First Benghazi Committee Hearing Humbled the Hillary Clinton State Department

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Sept. 18 2014 10:42 AM Scalia’s Liberal Streak The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 18 2014 11:25 AM Gays on TV: From National Freakout to Modern Family Fun
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Sept. 18 2014 8:53 AM The Other Huxtable Effect Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 10:07 AM “The Day It All Ended” A short story from Hieroglyph, a new science fiction anthology.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?