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Jackson case spotlights flaws of celebrity trials

Michael Jackson was found not guilty on charges of child molestation, but the King of Pop’s reign may be all but over anyway - no matter what some kangaroo court in California ruled.

Whether you think Jackson committed the alleged crimes or not, it is unlikely his career will ever be what it was, but the case has brought to light a bigger problem as many are left wondering about the validity of celebrity trials.

Sadly, it seems like a different set of rules apply to stars compared to you or me. But for celebrities such as Jackson and NBA player Kobe Bryant, the scandals that accompany high-profile trials is often almost as bad as a guilty charge.

Even though the U.S. justice system has cleared Jackson, the man is certainly guilty of being strange, almost to the creepy level. Still, the court of public opinion is very fickle.

In Jackson’s case, his diehard fans will stand by him and would have no matter the outcome of the trial. On the other hand, others will say Jackson is still weird and a pervert regardless of what some court says. Maybe the people on the fence will now be swayed to believe that Jackson is innocent. Or maybe they will believe that where there is smoke there is fire.

The disconcerting part is that a trial almost seems a formality for the big stars. I worry that the juries are star struck. Kobe Bryant, O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake and now Jackson all have got off free despite significant evidence in some of those cases.

Maybe the juries can’t differentiate between the real world and the star’s on-court or on-stage performances. I just don’t think Joe Citizen would be so lucky in these same situations.

If any of these celebrities are truly guilty, they deserve the proper punishment. If the justice system can’t do it, maybe it is some type of karma that public opinion seems to turn on these people.

Years after the trial, O.J. Simpson’s career and personal life have never been the same. Though he was found not guilty, much of the public still seems to view him as a murderer and have every right to do so. Jackson may be headed down that same path.

Hopefully these big-time, big-money, media circus trials will not erode the value of our justice system that our founding fathers put into place.

The foundation is solid in most cases, but celebrities seem to be able to beat the system. As a nation, and as citizens, we must do all we can to make sure that the "fair trial" provided for is, in fact, fair for all involved.

At this crucial time in history, we cannot afford for the world to look at any portion of our nation as flawed.

Perception can become reality. American jurors must not get stars in their eyes and confuse popularity with criminality.

Michael Caldwell is the managing editor at The Ironton Tribune. To reach Mike, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.