The cold, dead face of Michael Jackson Trials-by-public and why we don't need them


I’ve known people who, when disgusted by something, exclaim “I did not need to see that!” This cry is a little more ironic than most, since in the interests of overcoming disgust it’s more than likely people do need to see the thing that apparently revolts them, rather than being sheltered from it.

But I did not need to see Michael Jackson’s dead face, and neither did you. I don’t care if it’s disgusting. I don’t care if it’s humbling or humiliating or a heart-warming reminder of the fragility of life and all things. I simply do not need to see it.

His dead, lifeless face has came to light due to the continuing trial of Conrad Murray, the doctor who is considered by the world at large to be responsible for the superstar’s death.

We weren’t the judge or jurors in the Dr Murray’s trial. We weren’t the prosecution, the defense, the families, or Dr Murray himself. We did not and do not have any specific need to see evidence from the trial.

Yet apparently, we do. Apparently we specifically need to see images of Michael Jackson lying dead on a hospital gurney plastered across the tabloids, and watch the same video footage of his near-death moments that the jury are put through, as if they are somehow just as relevant to us.

In coverage of knife crime related trials or prosecutions, local presses will often print a stock image of an unrelated knife to give the story context. We are not shown the specific knife, or closeups of the blood, or the breakdown of the DNA markers, because it is simply nothing to do with us.

Courts and legal proceedings are always of public interest, especially regarding those of such mega-celebrity status, but this parading of the more gruesome pieces of evidence, this opportunity for the public to supposedly see and feel what the jury is supposedly seeing and feeling (without realising that these are just the edited highlights) only fosters trial-by-media attitudes and the conclusion that public opinion on guilt and innocence will always override the verdict of a court or jury.

Nick
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