LOS ANGELES – An angry crowd stood at the courthouse steps yelling “murderer” as Dr. Conrad Murray and his attorneys were ushered into the Los Angeles courtroom to begin criminal proceedings for manslaughter Tuesday.
Supporters of Jackson descended upon the courthouse steps to be present as opening statements were presented to the jury. Key Jackson family members, Joseph, Katherine, LaToya, Rebbie, Janet, Jermaine, Randy and Tito looked on tearfully as opening statements was presented to the jury.
While the family offered a strong African-American representation yesterday, the majority of fans who toted signs reading, “We Are MJ’s Voice Now! We Want Justice!” weren’t black. Is the African-American community, which hails Jackson as the King, even interested in the trial? Criminologist Alex Alonso thinks so.
WATCH ‘TODAY SHOW’ COVERAGE OF MICHAEL JACKSON’S TRIAL
“This is going to be the most watched trial since O.J. Simpson,” Alonso said. “Michael Jackson has such a fan following that people want to know how he died and see anyone responsible brought to justice.”
That fact is one that has many fans in the community cognizant of the trial itself, and while there was a lack of African-American presence at the courthouse itself, many in the community are still following the case through social media, and radio, and were still able to weigh in on impact of Jackson’s death and attempt to bring someone responsible to justice.
“Everyone is looking for a scapegoat. They’re looking for an explanation for why Michael died at such a young age, and whether or not it was justifiable,” Alonso added. “Drugs, drug dealing, and drug overdose has had a significant impact on the black community in the last 40 years and rarely is the drug pusher prosecuted when the drug user overdoses. But in essence, that is what we have here. Dr. Conrad Murray, the drug pusher, is on trial for the death of Jackson, the user.”
In the midst of Jackson supporters, Murray had his own group of supporters present, still not enough to sway the court of public opinion in the African-American community as the trial gets underway. Talk of the trial was heavy conversation during happy hour at Killer Shrimp in Marina del Rey Tuesday evening. Fans of Michael Jackson weighed in on the impact the trial and their feelings of loss, and their thoughts on Jackson being a victim of murder.
“Michael had a lifestyle of drug abuse, because of that he became a victim of murder. I believe Conrad Murray and whoever he was involved with, took advantage of the situation and killed Michael Jackson,” 36-year-old Renee Hollins said.
“Jackson opened doors for African-Americans in music. With the type of money that Jackson had, Dr. Conrad Murray, being a ‘doctor,’ he could have sustained his life,” Hollins added. “I don’t believe that it was accidental, I don’t believe that he was revived. I believe that he was killed.”
Two years after Jackson’s death, his music lives on. Music journalist Shaheem Reid thinks that although Jackson fans lost the icon at the hands of prescription drug addiction, they’re still looking for someone to blame.
“We’re all still trying to come to grips that he’s no longer with us. With all of the confusion, hurt and disappointment beyond belief, we are looking for someone to blame,” Reid says. “MJ fans are ready to throw Murray under the jail before we hear the facts. I don’t see how Murray can get off on this one. Some jurors are admitting that are Jackson fans. My hope is that the trial is swift, just and the defense doesn’t try to muddy The King’s name.”
Keeping Jackson’s name and legacy untarnished may be a difficult feat. Evidence presented yesterday of a heavily sedated Jackson recovered from Murray’s iPhone set the tone for the element of shock and surprise as the case goes on.
Poly Rob, engineer of 319 Records in Inglewood, Ca, feels a connection with the pop icon. The studio he produces from was once a Jackson family boutique. He says he feels Jackson’s energy while he works.
“The trial isn’t getting enough support from the black community. Michael had a lifestyle of drug use, and because of it he became a victim of murder,” says Rob. “Because Michael had an extraordinary impact in music, I don’t think people have soaked it in that he’s gone. They still play his records. MJ’s music is still in your iPod. The life of Michael is still here, he will always be an icon.”