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March 6, 2005 - Speculation Prompted by the Michael Jackson Trial

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World’s Laziest Journalist
March 7, 2005
By Bob Patterson
The premise for the movie “Prizzi’s Honor” (which was based on a Richard Condon novel) is that the two top organized crime assassins are a man and a woman who find each other and get married, but each of them is unaware of the other’s career.  The movie was based on a preposterous supposition: neither would know about the other.  That goes directly against logic and common sense. 
Two competing newspapers usually have a very accurate picture of what is going on in the other’s camp.  They know the office politics at the opposition just as well (if not better) than the opposition’s staff itself and vice versa.
Does anyone (other than the author of Prizzi’s Honor) honestly believe that the top “hit person” in New York City, doesn’t know who the best assassin in Southern California is and how he or she does his or her work?  Obviously they don’t have drinks together at an annual convention, but they must have a “grapevine” and “jungle drums” that fills them in on the general picture. 
[There is an annual sniper’s competition and they don’t just use targets that are just 100 yards away.  Think you’re a good shot?  How about when the target is 2,000 yards down the road?  Think the folks that are that good don’t know who their competition is?]
In 1957, there was a famous “rub out” in New York City done in a barbershop on 57th Street during regular business hours.  No one would say that they saw the shooters and the case remains unsolved.  Now, are we supposed to believe that the shooters were virtually invisible and that the detectives didn’t have a clue (so to speak) as to who did it, or is it more likely that they have heard the talk on the street and had a real good idea who did it, but just couldn’t build a strong enough case to take it to court?
So we’ll assume for the sake of knocking out this week’s column, that there are two distinct areas for police work.  One is having a pretty clear idea of what went down and the other is being able to prove who did what to whom in a manner that is “without a doubt” clear to a jury.
The bigger the case the more imperative it is to have a “solid” case before the judge bangs the gavel for the opening ceremony.  If law enforcement officials, who have a case that is in the realm of “gut hunch” concerning the perpetrator, lets their hunger and thirst for justice overcome their judgment, they can rush into court prematurely and sometimes the results can be a horrendously expensive debacle, other times, luck and oratorical skill can overcome the lack of evidence.
A columnist may see a made for TV movie that portrays a fellow being railroaded for the Lindbergh kidnapping case and find that the film makes things look a bit one-sided, but if the columnist doesn’t have more facts (such as one or more books on the subject by qualified reporters) then the movie itself doesn’t prove anything or form any more solid beliefs other than: “I should see if there are any good books on that subject in the used books stores or maybe the Santa Monica Public Library.”
At this stage, it looks as if the Michael Jackson trial is going to result in either a fiasco or a conviction based on circumstantial evidence. 
At one point in the constant quest to pay the rent and buy a lifetime supply of nourishment, this columnist has worked as an interviewer doing survey work and talked to a number of Los Angeles residents about their perceptions of the local police and their work. 
Based on the interviews conducted, this columnist can say that there is a strong perception (key word) in the black community that law enforcement in the US assumes that black perpetrators of crimes are to be dealt with more harshly than if the potential suspect was white.
When a black suspect is given a jury that is all white and when the prosecutor in his opening statement has to admit that one of his best witnesses has previously committed perjury on the witness stand in an unrelated case, then the outcome of the trial seems preordained to be a binary choice with either result being one that will offend a large group of citizens.
Opinion alert: The white jury will get more than one version of an expert’s “take my word for it” song and dance and the black community will have a prevailing sentiment that it is another case of the black suspect being railroaded by an emotional factor rather than logic based on evidence.
When the suspect is being tried in a conservative community, with an all white jury, with considerable related costs being footed by the local taxpayers, then the presumption is that they won’t be taking it to court unless the case is “solid.”
As the media focuses on this new case, how many will proved a truly insightful look at the possible results, and how many will go into minute detail about the day’s events and testimony and then, after a they inundate the audience with a plethora of “the jury could go either way” clichés, will monitor the deliberations from outside the courtroom and be truly surprised when the verdict completely alienates either the vast majority of the black community which won’t accept a guilty verdict, or the white community, which will be aghast at the futility and expense of an acquittal?
Traditionally, experiments have proved that eyewitnesses are very prone to mistakes, but, consistently, over the years, they have been the sine qua non for many “solid” cases that ended with a conviction.  An eyewitness in the Jackson case, other than the accuser, seems very unlikely.  The case will take a dramatic turn if a bystander witness is included in the trial, but (columnist opinion alert) that doesn’t seem to be part of the prosecution’s case.
Yes, it must be tough for law enforcement personnel see a guy skate because they can’t get a “solid” case, but it is also risky to spend millions on a case that will boil down to circumstantial evidence.
In Wiseguys Say The Darndest Things: The Quotable Mafia edited by Jerry Capeci, Joe Gallo is quoted (page 224) hinting that he and four associates had whacked Albert Ansastasia in the Park Sheraton Hotel barbershop.
There are two ways to make sure there are no witness to a crime: one is to make sure any potential witness doesn’t live long enough to testify and the other is to make absolutely sure no one is permitted to see a transgression being committed.
Since the process has begun (just as when Caesar’s horse got a shoe wet in the Rubicon), we will throw the worst possible scenario out as part of this marathon of speculation: the case will come down to a man versus child variation of the “he said, she said” dispute - and the kid will be subjected to an emotional meltdown of confusion and incomprehension on the stand that will make any guilty verdict look asinine, but that won’t prevent the jury from having to make the tough call.  Granted the ordeal will be rehearsed ahead of time, but ask any movie director about working with children.
Since late nigh talk show host Jay Leno may be called as a witness in the Michael Jackson case, the judge’s gag order means that Leno cannot include jokes about the trial in his nightly opening monologue.
Geraldo Rivera, before the all white jury was selected, indicated he thought Jackson would be found innocent.
On Friday, March 4, 2005, Los Angeles Times columnist Al Martinez humorously speculated about the possibility that if Leno testifies in the case, he will do an opening monologue.
On the night of Thursday, March 3, 2005, the BBC World News half hour program that is seen in the USA on many PBS stations, featured a segment about a motion in the US Senate to apologize for the fact that that body had never passed any of the various bills to outlaw the lynching of blacks.  That night NBC news chose other topics.  A quick scan of both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, the next day, failed to find any mention of that particular subject.
James Baldwin was quoted as saying: “At bottom to be colored means that one has been caught in some utterly unbelievable cosmic joke, a joke so hideous and in such bad taste that it defeats all categories and definitions.”
The aforementioned BBC report used the song Strange Fruit (was that version sung by Billie Holiday?) in the background, but we’ll ask our disk jockey to be a bit more innovative.  No one would know the song composed and sung by David Carradine, titled Cosmic Joke, so as Mick Jagger sings Old Habits Die Hard we will storm out of here for this week.  Come back and hang out with us again next week.  Until then, ask yourself: “Does mob rule mean that John Gotti is in charge?”





Copyright © 2005 – Robert Patterson


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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