SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — Michael Jackson has played the victim in his songs for years, and now his lawyers are ready to bring that image to court.
In “Billie Jean,” he portrays the target of a false paternity claim. In “Man in the Mirror,” he says he’s “been a victim of a selfish kind of love.” And throughout the album “HIStory,” he’s threatened by ominous characters such as D.S. — a character based on the district attorney now prosecuting him on charges of child molestation.
As his defense begins in his molestation trial, Mr. Jackson will again present himself as a victim — but this time his attorneys say it’s no performance. They say Mr. Jackson is the target of overzealous prosecutors, an untrustworthy inner circle and a family of grifters making false accusations.
But the lawyers will have to make sure that they don’t alienate jurors by playing the victim card heavy-handedly, said Dana Cole, a defense lawyer following the case and close friend of lead Jackson attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr.
“You don’t want to whine ‘poor me.’ But you do want to explain why the accuser’s family would be concocting molestation allegations — because they’re targeting him and trying to cash in like others have done in the past,” Mr. Cole said.
Mr. Jackson’s feelings of victimization date back to his early childhood, when his family thought the Jackson 5 didn’t receive fair treatment in their contract with Motown Records, said J. Randy Taraborrelli, a CBS News analyst and author of “Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness.”
Mr. Jackson has also said that he was abused for years by his father, Joe Jackson. In the Martin Bashir documentary at the heart of the prosecution’s case, Mr. Jackson said his father would beat him and his brothers if they didn’t learn their performance routines quickly enough.
“If you didn’t do it the right way, he would tear you up, really get you,” Mr. Jackson said, adding that his father would hit him with “whatever’s around — throw you up against the wall, hard as he could.”
The defense opened its case last week by calling to the stand two young men who slept in Mr. Jackson’s bed when they were boys. Both testified that the singer never molested them.
Mr. Jackson has already been portrayed as a victim during the trial, with his ex-wife Deborah Rowe testifying that some of his associates were “opportunistic vultures” trying to make money off of him.