Michael Jackson fans mostly mum at doctor's hearing

Tue Jan 11, 2011 2:59pm EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A plane flying a banner with a photo of Michael Jackson on Monday soared above the court where his ex-doctor stands accused of involuntary manslaughter, and the message with the picture was blunt: "Change charges to murder."

In the case against Dr. Conrad Murray, the plane and its banner were a rare instance of anything close to the spectacle of Jackson's 2005 trial and acquittal on child molestation charges. Back then, hundreds of Jackson fans from all over the world gathered daily near the courthouse and even saw their hero dance for them atop a vehicle one day after a hearing.

The lack of a swarming and adoring crowd has prompted the question of whether the "Thriller" singer's star has faded in the roughly 18 months since his death. But pop culture watchers say, probably not.

Murray's preliminary hearing, they say, has failed to generate excitement in the same way as other celebrity-related cases because Murray is not a star himself and the allegations against him were revealed months ago in court papers.

"It's not that Michael Jackson's fans don't still love him, they just don't feel compelled to take a stand and make a statement by showing up over this, because they've already made their minds up," said Cooper Lawrence, the author of "The Cult of Celebrity."

The preliminary hearings began last week into whether Murray should stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's June 25, 2009, death at age 50 from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol and the sedative lorazepam.

Murray was caring for the singer at the time, and prosecutors claim he is responsible for giving the singer too many drugs. Murray has pleaded not guilty. After the hearing, a judge will decide if enough evidence exists for a full trial.

A couple dozen Jackson fans have shown up every day outside the Los Angeles courtroom, waiting in a hallway and hoping to get a seat in the hearing. But aside from Monday's fly-over paid for by Jackson fans, there have been few incidents to grab the media's attention outside the court.   Continued...