Monday, June 16, 2008

Idle threat of the week

As I've stated before, the off-putting scatological details of the R. Kelly trial have prevented it from garnering the type of coverage such celebrity trials usually receive.

So it was no surprise Friday's "not guilty" verdict barely registered a whimper. What was surprising is the jury's foreman, addressing the sheepish press afterwards, conceded that the jury accepted it was R. Kelly on the tape urinating on a girl said to be 13 years old. But since the girl, who is now 23, refused to testify (and had presumably reached some sort of financial settlement with R. Kelly's camp) they couldn't convict him. Even with 15 of the purported victim's friends and relatives positively identifying her as the toilet in question

While R. Kelly joining Michael Jackson in getting away with some underage kink is not at the same level of outrage as OJ Simpson, Robert Blake and Phil Spector (so far) getting away with murder, it highlights again that there is no such thing thing as celebrity justice.

Surely money plays a role here. And maybe our criminal justice system just wasn't designed to withstand ace defense lawyers with unlimited budgets. But wealth didn't help Mike Tyson escape a rape conviction, which came after a trial soaked in the type reasonable doubt the courts are supposed to recognize.

So, in fact, what bonds all the serious celebrity trials of recent times isn't that the perp always walks, it is that the jury always reaches the wrong verdict.

This doesn't necessarily mean that the courts have a similarly bad batting average when normal folks get their more normal day in front of judge and jury. But such a high profile trend certainly doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in our legal system.

Not only was R. Kelly caught on tape, but he had a provable history of more normal sexual relationships with underage girls. Yet, with multiple counts to chose from, R. Kelly was found guilty of nothing. And another celebrity trial's promise to display the justness of our legal system ends up as the Idle Threat of the Week for June 9th to 15th.

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